Women in planetary science (WPSE 2018)

Posted in Uncategorised

The 2017 European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is currently taking place in Latvia, and includes a programme group about ‘Small bodies’ with several sessions relevant to comets and the Rosetta mission, in particular SB3 ‘What do we know and what don’t we know following the cessation of the operational phase of the Rosetta mission’.

This seems like a good time to point out that the first conference on ‘Women in planetary science and exploration’ WPSE 2018 will take place next February in Toronto. The abstract deadline is 1st November 2017. The aim of the conference is to highlight ‘the achievements of female, non-binary, and female identifying researchers, while offering an opportunity to discuss, challenge, network, and support their peers‘, and students of law, history and commercial space exploitation are also welcome.

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MiARD workshop on “Comets: Post 67P perspectives” in January 2018

Posted in MiARD

The dates are fixed, and invitations have been sent out, for the workshop to be held from 15th-19th January by the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland in conjunction with the MiARD project. The preliminary programme and futher details can be found at http://www.issibern.ch/workshops/post67p/

According to ISSI, the aims of the workshop are:

  1. To review the progress made on multi-instrument data analysis after Rosetta Mission. This shall include
  2. Current status of the development of an integrated 3D shape model,
  3. Current status of the mapping of properties/measurements to surface facets of the 3D model,
  4. Current status and results from gas dynamics modelling including activity distributions using multiple data sets,
  5. Current status of dust emission and brightness modelling,
  6. Current status of analysis of surface physical structure and thermal balance,
  7. Current understanding of the coma and surface chemical composition,
  8. Placing the results in the context of other observations of comets.
  9. To assess and possibly revise current models of nucleus activity (including potential evidence for different mechanisms) and evolution.
  10. To assess our current understanding of risk from comets (through perturbation of nuclei by non-gravitational forces and particle impact on interplanetary spacecraft) including link to ground-based observations.
  11. To re-assess the (extensive) study work performed on possible comet nucleus sample return studies and provide guidelines as to how this work should be updated in the light of Rosetta’s results.

A number of papers arising from the workshop (and thus the MiARD project) will be published by Springer in the Space Sciences Series of ISSI, both in journal format and as a hard-cover book. We currently expect publication to take place in early 2019.

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Comets or active asteroids?

Posted in Comets, Dust

Here is a link to a two-minute podcast by Dr Al Grauer from the Spreaker ‘Travelers in the Night‘ channel about how some asteroids can have a comet-like tail, and are also responsible for some meteor showers (the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which passes very close to the sun, is associated with the Geminid meteor shower; this December 2017 Phaethon will pass ‘just’ six million miles from the Earth).

In order to better understand the links between comets and ‘active asteroids’ we will need more information about their composition from future missions.

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Meteor storms later in 2017

Posted in Comets, Dust, MiARD

Unfortunately, a nearly-full moon will hamper observations of the Perseid meteor shower this year (close to 12th August) and the weather in north-west Europe is also not ideal. If you don’t see any Perseids this year, then you may wish to take a look at the International Meteor Organization’s calendar which lists all expected meteor shows for 2017 with comments as to the likely viewing conditions.

Meteor shows are in general due to dust particles shed by comets as they approached the sun on previous orbits. The Perseids are associated with comet Swift-Tuttle, a 27 km large body which last passed near Earth in 1992 and is not expected again until 2126. We see ‘shooting stars’ because the dust particles are traveling at about 60 km/s relative to the Earth, and this is fast enough that air friction heats the tiny dust particles to white heat in the upper atmosphere, about 90 km above us.


Space.com has posted a video showing early Perseids from this years shower, photographed by a NASA all-sky camera.

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