Europlanet Webinars
December 14, 2016

Europlanet Webinars – Your Web-Based Link to Europe’s Planetary Researchers

Ever wanted to hear a first-hand account of what planetary researchers are actually working on and what their research is all about? How about the opportunity to ask them directly and have them answer your questions? Europlanet is offering monthly webinars with topics ranging from current Mars missions, astrobiology, analogue field expeditions to many other aspects of exploring and understanding our Solar System. These online presentations are an authentic and exciting way to experience cutting-edge science and talk to the researchers involved, sometimes directly from their laboratories and field missions.

Whom is it for and how does it work?

We welcome anyone interested in planetology, especially school classes – this is also a chance to interact with the researchers. You simply need to go to the website indicated in the announcement on social media, or this site directly.

Request your favourite topic! Questions?

If you have a topic in planetary sciences you would like to adress — drop us an email and maybe we can arrange a webinar with the specialists in exactly that field! email:

Next webinar

We regret to inform you that the webinar on 5th February has been cancelled due to a technical issue at the Oman desert centre. We will try to organise another webinar end of February. Stay tuned!

AMADEE-18 is a Mars analogue mission by the Austrian Space Forum in partnership with the Oman National Steering Committee for AMADEE-18. During February, a small field crew will prepare for future human missions to Mars by conducting experiments in the fields of engineering, planetary surface operations, astrobiology, geophysics/geology, life sciences and other. More than 200 people from 25 nations are involved in this 4-week Mars analogue simulation. For this special webinar, our host, Rosa Doran, will be joined by:

  • Gernot Groemer, Austrian Space Forum, field commander and AMADEE-18 project lead
  • Olivia Haider, Austrian Space Forum
  • Analogue astronauts, Austrian Space Forum
  • Clementine DeCoopman, Space Generation Advisory Council.

The webinar will be live streamed at:

Previous webinars

January 2018

30th January 2018, 14:00 GMT / 15:00 CET: “Creating a hotspot for understanding Venus – the Planetary Emissivity Laboratory” with Dr Dr Jörn Helbert.

Although Venus is a similar size to Earth and sometimes called its twin planet, it’s a very different place. Venus is surrounded by a thick atmosphere of mainly carbon dioxide and clouds of sulphuric acid that make it very difficult to study the planet’s surface. Until recently, it was thought that a lander was needed to analyse the chemical composition of rocks on the ground. But with surface temperatures averaging 462 degrees Celsius – twice as hot as most household ovens – and pressures equivalent to nearly a kilometre’s depth in Earth’s oceans, landing on Venus is a huge challenge. No spacecraft has touched down on the surface since the Soviet Union’s Vega probes in 1985.

In recent years, planetary scientists have taken advantage of “spectral windows” in Venus’s atmosphere that are transparent to certain wavelengths of infrared light. Observations using Venus Express’s Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) and Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instruments have revealed chemical variations that can be related to geological features on the surface of Venus.
Because different chemical compounds emit radiation at specific electromagnetic wavelengths, every mineral has a unique “spectral fingerprint” of emission lines. This means that, to interpret their observations and work out which rocks are present, planetary scientists need reference catalogues showing these fingerprints acquired under conditions matching those on the surfaces being studied.

For more than 40 years, planetary scientists have been attempting to create these libraries. Now, Dr Jörn Helbert and colleagues have come up with an effective solution. The Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) at the Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) is a facility able to carry out routine analysis of Venus analogue materials over the whole range of Venus surface temperatures and at the key wavelengths for the transparent spectral windows in Venus’s atmosphere.

In this webinar we will talk about the challenges and solutions for simulating Venus and what measurements using the PSL facility will enable scientists to find out about the surface of Earth’s extraordinary twin planet.

December 2017

13th December 2017, 14:00 GMT / 15:00 CET: “Diamonds – Precious time capsules from the deep Earth” with Dr Janne Koornneef.

Diamonds are gemstones made of pure carbon. On Earth, they can form only under the high pressure and temperature conditions deep within the Earth’s mantle. The diamonds that we find on (or near) the surface have been transported from great depths at enormous speeds by explosive magmas. Since their first discovery, geologists have been fascinated by how, why, and when diamonds form. However, answering these questions is difficult because a diamond’s pure carbon composition makes dating diamond itself almost impossible.

Dr Janne Koornneef and colleagues at the Vrije Universteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have recently developed techniques that make it possible to date diamonds by studying mineral ‘inclusions’ trapped within the diamond structure. These techniques allow researchers — for the first time — to determine precisely when and by what process diamonds form. The results have led to great surprises, including that some diamonds can form at a much younger geological age than previously expected.

In this webinar, Dr Koorneef will explain what we currently know about diamond formation and the mysteries that geologists still hope to solve about these iconic and beautiful gemstones.

November 2017

28 November 2017, 14:00 GMT / 15:00 CET: “Impact cratering – the most important geological process in our Solar System” with Dr Anna Losiak

Impact cratering is currently the most important geological process in our Solar System and (most probably) on most of exoplanets. It is modifying planetary surfaces by creating gigantic scars on its surface, and it can also induce planetary-scale changes such as formation of our own Moon or changing the direction of Venus rotation. It is known to influence the life on Earth, most famously by killing dinosaurs, but also by fostering life thanks to delivering water and organic material to our planet. Despite the importance of this geological process, we know relatively little about it. It is partially due to the fact that it is a relatively young field in geology – the first crater was accepted as being formed by an asteroid hitting the Earth only in 1960’s. Moreover, because of Earth’s very active surface geology removing signs of such extra-terrestrial encounters, we currently know about only 190 impact structures on Earth – ranging from 13 m in diameter and only 10-year-old Carancas crater in Peru, up to 300 km in diameter and 2,1 Gy old Vredefort crater in the Republic of South Africa.
What can we learn by studying impact craters on Earth? And how can we avoid the fate of dinosaurs?

October 2017

31 October 2017, 15:00 CET (14:00 CET): “Chasing the devil – what do dust devils on Earth tell us about Mars?” with Dr Jan Raack, Open University. Dr Raack discusses field campaigns to China and Morocco to investigate dust devils, small whirlwinds common on Earth as well as on Mars. During the webinar, he presents some of the latest scientific results he and his colleague have gained about dust devils’ erosional capacity, their internal structure, and their meteorological properties — and what this tells us about Mars. In addition, he explains what it’s like to take part in a field campaign and how he has made some of the unusual instruments he uses to study dust devils on Earth.

September 2017

13 September 2017, 16:00 CEST (14:00 UTC): Cassini-Huygens and The Lord of the Rings with Dr Sheila Kanani, Royal Astronomical Society. The flagship robotic orbiter, Cassini, and lander, Huygens, have provided us with a wealth of information about Saturn, its moons and its rings. By the time it ‘crashes’ into Saturn in September 2017, Cassini will have been in space for almost 20 years. Join Sheila in celebrating the incredible spacecraft’s amazing mission and some of the breath taking discoveries it made, including a hexagonal storm that rages at Saturn’s north pole and an icy moon that could harbour life.

July 2017

22nd July 2017, 17:00 EEST (16:00 CEST/14:00 UTC): Inspired by Cosmic Space: Sounds of the Earth’s magnetosphere in electroacoustic music. Public lecture by Dr. Eleni Chatzicharistou at the Moletai Astronomical Observatory.

May 2017

30th May, 11:00 CEST (09:00 UTC): Saturn Live! Exploration of Saturn’s Icy Moons as Possible Habitats, with Dr Athena Coustenis, Observatoire de Paris-Meudon and hosted by Rosa Doran of NUCLIO. Athena discusses the exploration of Saturn’s icy moons as possible habitats and European involvement in the Cassini mission.

April 2017

25 April, 15:00 CEST (13:00 UTC): Tales of Geology and Education in Ethiopia, with Dr Barbara Cavalazzi from the Department of Biological, Geological and EnvironmentalSciences at the University of Bologna and hosted by Rosa Doran of NUCLIO. Barbara discusses the unique geological aspect of Ethiopia and the country’s education system, as well as  the outreach programmes that she has developed in Ethiopia.

The special webinar is a part of ‘Global Astronomy Month’ 2017 and organised by NUCLIO with a focus on science teachers and educators.

January 2017

11 January 2017, 14:00 CET: Astrobiology – the quest for life in the universe. With Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Medizinische Universität Graz. Mutating microbes on the space station? Is there life hundreds of meters below the surface of our planet? Christine Moissl-Eichinger is studying the genome of microbial life forms under extreme conditions: what makes them survive under harsh conditions deadly to any human and why could that be relevant to the search for life in our Solar System?

October 2016

20 October 2016: ExoMars – Europe’s journey to Mars, with Jonathan Merrison/Aarhus Univsreiyt, Denmark – recreating Mars in the laboratory in preparation for the ExoMars mission.

Transit of Mercury webinars

16 May 2016: Europlanet Mercury Transit Hangout: Part 3, with David Rothery (Open University), Remco Timmermans (ISU)

19 April 2016: Europlanet Mercury Transit Hangout: Part 2, with David Rothery (Open University), Valentina Galluzzi (INAF), Johannes Benkhoff (ESA) and Jane MacArthur (University of Leicester)

14 April 2016: Europlanet Mercury Transit Live Hangout: Part 1, with Oana Sandu (European Southern Observatory), Remco Timmermans (International Space University), Gabriele Cremonese (INAF-OAPD)  and David Rothery (Open University)