News from IEPS

ARIEL selected as ESA’s next medium-class science mission

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ARIEL

Giovanna Tinetti, a member of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck, and her team at UCL are leading a multi-million pound European mission to study newly discovered planets after it was selected today as the next European Space Agency science mission.

ERC Starting Grant awarded to Dr Ingo Waldmann

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Dr Ingo Waldmann

Many congratulations to Dr Ingo Waldmann (Physics & Astronomy, UCL) who has recently been awarded a €1.5M European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for a project entitled: ExoAI - Deciphering super-Earths using artificial intelligence. The project will run for 5 years, starting in January 2018.

Size matters in the detection of exoplanet atmospheres

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Hot Jupiter exoplanets

A group-analysis of 30 exoplanets orbiting distant stars suggests that size, not mass, is a key factor in whether a planet’s atmosphere can be detected according to a UCL-led team of European researchers.

Cassini’s legacy and a final farewell

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Artist’s impression of Cassini in orbit at Saturn

Many researchers at the UCL/Birkbeck Centre for Planetary Sciences said a fond farewell to the Cassini spacecraft when it was plunged into Saturn on 15 September 2017, after 13 years of exploring the giant planet and its moons, leaving an enormous legacy of data.

Guest crater on the Moon

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John Guest

A crater on the Moon has been named after the late John Guest (1938-2012), a pioneer in volcanology and planetary science, who inspired generations of colleagues and students at UCL for over half a century. During his time at UCL, John established the emerging disciplines of planetary geology and physical volcanology and, in 1980, he founded the first NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility outside the USA. 

The intellectual and social benefits of astrobiology

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The International Journal of Astrobiology

In a new article soon to be published by the International Journal of Astrobiology, Professor Ian Crawford aims to explain the broader aims of astrobiology: 

Professor Ian Crawford elected Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Professor Ian Crawford

Congratulations to CPS member Professor Ian Crawford on his recent election to the role of Vice President (Geophysics) of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).   A full report can be found in the Birkbeck news article linked below.

World’s oldest fossils unearthed

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ANCIENT HOLDFAST This filament and clump of iron ore (lower right) may have once been a strand of microbial cells attached to rocks around hydrothermal vent openings. Credit: M. Dodd

Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists and CPS members PhD student Matthew Dodd and Dr Dominic Papineau, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

First detection of gases in super-Earth atmosphere

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55 Cancri e

CPS members led by UCL PhD student Angelos Tsiaras have made the first successful detection of gases in the atmosphere of a super-Earth,  revealing the presence of hydrogen and helium, but no water vapour.

IEPS 5th Newsletter

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Newsletter5


Welcome to the 5th issue of the IEPS Newsletter that aims to keep staff informed of research activities within the UCL and Birkbeck components of the Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Current plans are for the Newsletter to be circulated four times a year. 

Professor Hilary Downes elected to the Presidency of the Mineralogical Society

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Prof. Hilary Downes

Congratulations to CPS member Professor Hilary Downes on her recent election to the role of President of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. A full report can be found in the news article from Birkbeck's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure launches new era of planetary collaboration in Europe

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Mars (credit: NASA, ESA)

A €9.95 million project to integrate and support planetary science activities across Europe has been launched. 

ARIEL mission to reveal 'Brave New Worlds' among exoplanets

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Concept view of the ARIEL spacecraft. Credit: ESA

An ambitious European mission is being planned to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve. ARIEL will investigate the atmospheres of several hundreds planets orbiting distant stars. It is one of three candidate missions selected last month by the European Space Agency (ESA) for its next medium class science mission, due for launch in 2026.  The ARIEL mission concept has been developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 12 countries, including UK, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal.  The mission will be presented today at the Pathways 2015 conference in Bern, Switzerland, by ARIEL’s Principal Investigator, Prof Giovanna Tinetti of UCL. 

Dr. Geraint Jones: Pluto’s moons in sharper focus

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Dr. Geraint Jones

Dr. Geraint Jones, Reader in Planetary Science at UCL, highlights Pluto's moons in his recent article for The Conversation: "New Horizons brings Pluto’s mysterious moons into sharper focus".

Pluto and Charon - A Planetary Waltz, in celebration of NASA's New Horizon Mission

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Original plates from Clyde Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto (apparent magnitude +15.1). Credit: Lowell Observatory Archives via Wikipedia

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to the dwarf planet Pluto, the outermost body in the Solar we have visited. A hundred years previously, Gustav Holst had been composing his Planet Suite, ignorant of Pluto’s existence.

Prof. Andrew Coates: There is still lots more solar system exploration to do... 

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Prof. Andrew Coates

In his recent article for The Conversation: "Fly-by missions: what is the point when we have the technology to go into orbit?", Prof. Andrew Coates, Head of Planetary Science at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL, discusses the significance of fly-by missions, including the recently successful NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto, and the importance of continued solar system exploration.

IEPS 4th Newsletter

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IEPS Newsletter 3


Welcome to the 4th issue of the IEPS Newsletter that aims to keep staff informed of research activities within the UCL and Birkbeck components of the Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Current plans are for the Newsletter to be circulated four times a year. 

Prof. Ian Crawford awarded Leverhulme Trust research grant to study what the Moon may tell us about the history of the Milky Way

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Close-up of the lunar regolith with astronaut’s boot for scale (credit: NASA)

The new grant, entitled Assessing the potential of lunar geology as a window into galactic history, was awarded to Professor Crawford and colleagues Dr Pieter Vermeesch (UCL) and Dr Katherine Joy (University of Manchester). Dr Louise Alexander, who obtained both her B.Sc. and Ph.D degrees in planetary science from Birkbeck, will be employed as researcher on the project.

Venus is slowly losing its atmosphere

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Artist's impression of the interaction between Venus and the solar wind. Copyright: ESA (Image by C. Carreau)

New research on ionospheric photoelectrons in the tail of Venus, led by CPS members at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), shows that the planet is losing 300kg of its atmosphere per day. The research, from two papers published in the journal Planetary and Space Science, is based on data from the ASPERA-4 electron spectrometer on ESA's Venus Express spacecraft.

Twinkle: A UK-led, fast-track space mission to study exoplanet atmospheres

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Twinkle

A team led by CPS members Dr Giovanna Tinetti (Lead Scientist) and Dr Marcell Tessenyi (Project Manager) aims to build and launch, within the next 3 to 4 years, a small and cost-effective UK-built spacecraft called Twinkle, dedicated to the observation of exoplanet atmospheres. This ambitious project is achievable by working together with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and reusing an existing platform. 

Saturn moon Hyperion charging is a Cassini Top 10 discovery of 2014!

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Hyperion

Research about Hyperion's Electrostatically Charged Surface led by CPS member Dr Tom Nordheim (MSSL) and fellow CPS members Prof. Andrew Coates and Dr Geraint Jones makes the Cassini team’s top picks for the mission’s 10 most interesting science findings of 2014

IEPS 3rd Newsletter

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IEPS Newsletter 3


Welcome to the 3rd issue of the IEPS Newsletter that aims to keep staff informed of research activities within the UCL and Birkbeck components of the Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Current plans are for the Newsletter to be circulated four times a year. 

How landslides on Mars might reveal more than they cover up: new insights into Mars' sedimentary budget

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Landslides on Mars

In a new paper, Peter Grindrod describes how unique landslides can help to decipher the erosional history of Mars, and the implications for the global sedimentary budget of the planet.

IEPS 2nd Newsletter

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Newletter2


Welcome to the second issue of the IEPS Newsletter that aims to keep staff informed of research activities within the UCL and Birkbeck components of the Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Current plans are for the Newsletter to be circulated four times a year. 

ExoMars 2018 Landing Site Selection

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Landing on Mars

The European Space Agency starts considering potential landing sites on Mars for its 2018 ExoMars mission. Dr Peter Grindrod, a planetary scientist is one of the experts tasked with this job. 

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