Review of Europlanet Highlights in 2017
It’s been another busy year for Europlanet. Here are the outreach team’s picks of some of the project highlights from the past 12 months.
December – Europlanet steers a path to the future
The first meeting of a Steering Group that will oversee the establishment of a new Europlanet society, open to individual and institutional members, was held on 20th December at the European Science Foundation in Strasbourg. The Society, which will be launched in 2018, will ensure the longterm, sustainable future for Europlanet in supporting the European planetary science community.
November – PhysisArt
PhysisArt exhibition opening in Bologna. Credit: ALMA MATER STUDIORUM – Università di Bologna
This autumn saw the launch of PhysisArt, an exhibition of images and works by the artist, Samantha Tistoni, who accompanied Europlanet researchers for a field trip to Danakil in January 2017. The exhibition has been accompanied by a series of talks on Danakil and planetary science by Dr. Barbara Cavalazzi, a researcher at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bologna. Following its launch in Bologna in October, the exhibition went on display in Modena from 18-26 November. You will have further chances to catch the exhibition in Chieti and Pescara in March 2018. Read more
October – Planetary Space Weather Services
Space weather – the monitoring and prediction of disturbances in our near-space environment and how they are controlled by the Sun – is an important aspect of understanding our Earth and protecting vital assets such as orbiting satellites and power grids. Europlanet’s “Planetary Space Weather Services” (PSWS) virtual access service provides toolkits for tracking planetary or solar events through the Solar System to assist researchers and industry planning for space missions. In October, PSWS held a workshop to review observations of planetary space weather and space climate obtained by space missions , as well as identify ways to improve modelling of space weather and space climate in our Solar System. A topical issue of Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate about planetary space weather will be published in the spring of 2018 summarising the presentations at this workshop and sessions at EPSC and the 14th European Space Weather Week. Read more
September – European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017, Riga, Latvia
The registration team at EPSC 2017. Credit: Mareks Matisons / LSM.lv / LMT
The European Planetary Science Congress 2017, held from 16-22 September in Riga, Latvia, was attended by 808 participants from 40 countries. EPSC 2017 was truly memorable for the science presented, for the public and political engagement activities around the event. Read our highlights
August – Anticipating our Astrobioloby animation
In August, we prepared to launch our third animation, “Astrobiology – Live in the Universe”, which shows how planetary scientists are looking for signs of life on other planets, using our very own Earth as a laboratory. Read more
July – Europlanet Summer School 2017
Participants at the Europlanet Summer School 2017. Credit: Andrius Zigmantas
Europlanet’s outreach activity joined forces with its science networking activity to run the 2017 Europlanet Summer School “Space missions: ground-based observations and science communication” from 18-28 July at the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory in Lithuania. The summer school was attended by 21 students from 13 countries. Read more
June – Europlanet Prize Announcement 2017
“Comets – The Rosetta Mission” Exhibition at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. Credit: CD Werbeagentur/Eventfotograf Gerald Schmidt.
In June, we announced that the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2017 had been awarded to the team behind the outstandingly successful exhibition, “Comets – The Rosetta Mission: Journey to the Origins of the Solar System”, at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. Ulrich Köhler, Dr. Barbara Stracke and Dr. Ekkehard Kührt, of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, accepted the award on behalf of the exhibition’s curation team at EPSC 2017 in Riga. The calls for the 2018 prize and Europlanet public engagement funding scheme are open until the 31st January.
May – Europlanet passes its mid-term review
In May, Europlanet had its first mid-term review at the European Commission in Brussels. Before the review, we submitted a 190 page report covering our progress since the project started on 1st September 2015. Some of the achievements by the end of the reporting period (28th February) include:
181 applications to our Transnational Access programme, with 31 visits having taken place, supporting the work of over 140 researchers.
32 tools in VESPA, the virtual planetary observatory, now online – 21 of which were developed during the first 18 months of Europlanet 2020 RI. A further 10 services are being developed and the tools and services will be increased and enhanced throughout the rest of the project.
Workshops, meetings and conferences engaging more than 3000 researchers organised through Europlanet 2020 RI.
33 press releases, 2 animations, 13 briefings with politicians, 2 collections of educational resources.
In her report, the reviewer commented on the “significant results” delivered by Europlanet so far. Our next review will be in October 2018.
April – Mapping surfaces workshop
Participants at the workshop in Roscoff
Europlanet held a workshop on”Planetary Mapping and Virtual Observatory” in Roscoff, France from 19-21 April 2017. There were 30 participants on site and 7 people took part remotely in presentations, tutorials, hands-on and hackathons, as well as discussion sessions. The objectives of the workshops included:
Share and advance on Surface imaging and mapping (human, computer-aided, geologic, geospatial)
Integrate data through OGC and VO standards: opportunities and challenges
Disseminate information on available tools and datasets
Improve VESPA mapping capabilities (search, discovery, etc.)
Contribute to advance standardisation of mapping for small (irregular) bodies
March – Monthly Webinars
School in Mozambique participating in Europlanet monthly webinar.
In March, we started a new collaboration with Nuclio to run monthly webinars aimed at schools and teachers. The series has so far covered: Tales of geology and education in Ethiopia, Saturn’s Icy Moons as Possible Habitats, Cassini-Huygens and The Lord of the Rings, Dust Devils on Earth and Mars, Impact Cratering and Diamonds, time capsules from the deep Earth. Read more
February – First publication on new technique for sample analysis
Diamonds with inclusions. Credit: M. Gress, VU Amsterdam
In February, the first paper was published on Europlanet’s joint research activity to improve capabilities for analysing the mineralogical, geochemical and isotopic composition of rare or unique samples, such as material from sample return missions or meteorites. By allowing for the analysis of smaller samples, this work is expected to open up totally new areas of research providing new quantitative constraints on planetary formation and evolution. The peer-reviewed paper in “Earth and Planetary Science Letters” reported a study of tiny mineral ‘inclusions’ within diamonds from Botswana, which showed that diamond crystals can take billions of years to grow. Read more
January – New Transnational Access sites
The Danakil Depression. Credit: B Cavalazzi, U. Bologna
In January, the Europlanet team returned to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia to complete characterisation of the site as a planetary analogue of Venus and the early Earth. The process of characterisation of Danakil and Lake Tirez, a new martian analogue site in Spain, has included the creation of biological distribution maps that will help understand the processes that control the interaction between biology and geology of the habitat. Danakil and Lake Tirez can now be visited by the wider scientific community through Europlanet’s transnational access scheme, along with other field sites and laboratory facilities. Read more