In 2020, the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC), a scientific conference on planetary science, was held online. From the 24th of September to the 9th of October 2020, a scientific conference opened its doors to schools and gave students a glimpse of how contemporary science is done.
Teachers and students were invited to join us virtually in 4 different types of activities:
1. Scientific talks from the congress were made available on-demand
, along with a plain-language summary for teachers and students to select their talks of interest.
2. Supporting live talks
were organized by researchers on introductory topics related to planetary sciences, targeted specifically at young audiences.
3. Every week a Q&A session
with one of the experts was broadcasted live in the researcher's native language to give the opportunity to students that speak the same language to ask questions related either to their research topics or to their career paths.
4. An art contest
called #InspiredByOtherWorlds was organized for young students to share their own creations drawing inspiration from the talks they attended.
These activities were organised by Lecturers without Borders
, the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Network
, the Diversity Committee of the Europlanet Society
. [I think we should add links to their websites here]
More than 110 schools from different parts of the world registered for the event. We did our best to make sure there were talks available on different times of the day (CET) to make sure that each school had at least one event to which they were able to join during school hours in their own country.Program of Live talks 1.1 What is Astrobiology?
Thursday, September 24th, 16:45 CET
Looking for early signs of life is not looking directly for life. If this sounds complex is because it is. Luckily we have two scientists to explain to us what astrobiologists look for. The astrobiologists study the rocks, meteorites and their chemistry in order to discover what were the building blocks of life. Sure there was water... but is this enough? Julia Brodsky and Ulysse Pedreira Segade will take us on a trip to the icy moons of our solar system and the deep Earth ocean and explain to us what is an analogue study and how it helps them in their quest!
- Ulysse Pedreira-Segade, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. Ulysse always wanted to be a paleontologist, because he loved dinosaurs. But to be honest, he was also so interested in understanding why life was... well, life as we know it, that he decided to dedicate his research to the origins of life on Earth and the search for life in the Universe. And this is where he found rocks. Rocks could have started it all, you know: the first chemists on the workbench, the shelters in the extreme weathers, and the oldest archives of our planet.
Watch the full lecture What is astrobiology by Julia Brodsky 1.2 Searching for meteorites in Antarctica
- Julia Brodsky, Art of Inquiry and Blue Marble Institute of Science. Julia Brodsky is the founder and lead instructor of an online space science school for children, Art of Inquiry LLC. She is an astrophysicist by training, former NASA astronaut instructor, private school teacher and mom of three kids.
Wednesday, September 30th, 12:00 CET
Antarctica represents a unique continent. It is the windiest, coldest, driest, highest continent on earth. Also, it is an ideal place to find meteorites. The speaker was lucky enough to be part of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) mission, which is a cooperative effort by NASA, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution. During his presentation, the students will learn about the difficulties to be in Antarctica, the passion for searching the rocks formed during the early Solar system, the motivation to wait until the dream of a scientist (himself) came true (selection for ANSMET). They will learn how the study of meteorites helps us to understand the processes form the different components within our solar system, and how they really evolved through time. The participants will learn what a meteorite is, and which are the primary features to look at, in order to identify their extra-terrestrial origin. Finally, the students will have the chance to look (unfortunately through their screens) at real meteorites.
Watch the full lecture Searching for Meteorites in Antarctica by Ioannis Baziotis 1.3 A walk on the moon
- Pr. Ioannis Baziotis, Agricultural University of Athens. Ioannis Baziotis is mineralogist-petrologist, studying a variety of rocks, both of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial origin. I.B. is assistant professor at the Agricultural University of Athens, with numerous International collaborations, published works, and dissemination activities. He is the only Greek who participated, in the highly prestigious –NASA-funded– mission, Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET).
Wednesday, September 30th, 13:00 CET
How much is it possible to stay in a lodge on the Moon? In how many years will tourist trips be possible on our natural satellite? The talk presents the latest developments in research and technology in the field of planetary exploration, with an emphasis on the colonization of the Moon. At the same time, it raises questions about the philosophical and existential issues that accompany such an endeavor, while at the same time raising questions about the future of space travel, the future of humanity, the cost of missions and the knowledge that humanity will gain from space research.
Watch the full lecture A Walk on the Moon by Kosmas Gazeas 1.4 Our solar system and its weird cousins
- Dr. Kosmas Gazeas, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Dr. Kosmas Gazeas studied Physics and Observational Astrophysics in Greece. His post-doctoral research in astrophysics was conducted at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), USA, where he worked with images taken from Hubble Space Telescope (NASA). He worked at the European Space Agency - ESA, Netherlands where he specialized in space technology and optics. Since 2012 he has acted as an ESA scientific consultant in projects related to space optics. Today Dr. Gazeas is a Lecturer of Observational Astrophysics at the Physics Department (UOA). His educational and research work is focused in astronomical study of eclipsing binary stars, supernovae, blazars, black holes and other exotic objects in our Universe, while we works in parallel with asteroseismology, on various space technology topics, applied optics and astronomical instrumentation.
Monday, October 5th, 8:00 CET
Are we unique? Or can solar systems like ours form easily? - and would that mean life can exist just as easily? We look at our own solar system and discover the diversity of worlds in it. We then look at evidence we have, such as meteorites from the Moon, Mars, and young planets, and discuss what it says about how our sun and planets form. Then we look at how other stars are forming and what other solar systems look like. We try to answer questions about: Is our solar system unique? What do observations of other solar systems say about our own system? How well does our theory of solar system formation work for all the different types of planets discovered?
- Georgy Makhatadze, University of Copenhagen. Georgy Makhatadze is a PhD student working at the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, University of Copenhagen. Before that he graduated from the Faculty of Geology of Lomonosov Moscow State University. He has been engaging in science communication starting 2016, mostly by giving lectures.
Watch the full lecture Our Solar System and its Weird Cousins - Makhatadze & Kuruwita 1.5 "Anatomy" of a scientific talk
- Rajika Kuruwita, University of Copenhagen. Rajika Kuruwita is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen. I simulate the formation of stars to study their dynamical interactions and determine the influence these interactions could have on potential planet formation and population statistics.
Friday, October 9th, 10:00 CET
How do we separate scientific speech from speculation? What elements are we looking for in a scientific talk? Planetary scientist Athanasia and Education expert Manolis will perform an interactive exercise with students on a talk that they have voted as most interesting among the on-demand program of EPSC. Let's break it down. Suitable for students of high school or older.
- Athanasia Nikolaou, Sapienza University of Rome. Athanasia Nikolaou has studied physics in Athens, Greece, holds a MSc in climate science and a PhD in planetary science. She has worked in the Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency in the Netherlands and in the German Aerospace Center in Germany. She is part of the international science consortium of the ARIEL space mission, currently working in La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. Her research focuses on planetary evolution, the stability of dynamical systems and climate processes on early Earth and on exoplanets. She is a co-founder of Lecturers Without Borders.
Watch the full lecture "Anatomy" of a Scientific Talk - Nikolaou & Chaniotakis 1.6 Women space engineers
- Manolis Chaniotakis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Emmanuel Chaniotakis is a Physicist with MSc in High Energy Physics, and works as a researcher at the RnD department of Ellinogermaniki Agogi School in Greece. His work is focused on: the design and implementation of ICT-enhanced, inquiry based educational activities in the field of Physics; Teacher training and support in ICT- enhanced, inquiry based science education; the organization and support of international training activities such as summer schools and the organization of educational competitions. He is a PhD candidate in Science Education at the Faculty of Educational Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Friday, October 9th, 11:00 CET
We know about engineers on Earth. They make sure that everything works, from complex microscopes to giant engines. But how do things change when we have to send a simple camera to space? Aerospace engineer Yaquelin Rosas and Space engineer Sarah Rodriguez-Castillo will tell us what challenges are posed for instruments as soon as they leave our home planet. How do engineers cool the spacecraft and how do they protect its electronics? Tune in to hear about the radiation environment around Jupiter (JUICE mission) and why we need to "bake" our spacecraft firstly, before we send them into the coolness of outer space (BepiColombo ESA mission)!
- Sarah Rodriguez-Castillo, European Space Agency (ESA- ESTEC). Astrophysicist and Materials Engineer working in the Materials' Physics and Chemistry section in ESA. My job is to support all ESA projects and technology programmes in the frame of materials suitability for each mission environment (radiation, temperatures, vacuum...). The same material is not always suitable for a mission to Jupiter and for one to Mercury!
Watch the full lecture Women Space Engineers - Rodriguez-Castillo & Rosas Section 2: On demand program (high schools or older)
- Yaquelin Rosas, German Aerospace Center (DLR). Yaquelin Rosas is an aerospace engineer currently working as a project manager in EnVision, a mission to study Venus! She is also supporting the development of mechanical components for Janus, a camera on board JUICE mission, which is going to be launched for Jupiter!
The EPSC 2020 conference was virtual. This means that it was composed of pre-recorded presentations that each lasted 10'. This format enabled the attendees to view them on-demand, in their own time. Although it removed the interactivity with the speakers, at the same time it allowed more flexibility to the viewers that were located in different time zones.
We made available a limited selection of talks, accompanied by a plain language summary, on a public vimeo channel