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Planetary Aeronomy News

 

Destination Mars, episode 1: Searching for signs of life

26 Jan 2016 - Jorge Vago, one of the Exomars Project Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA), outlined the mission.

Busy in Baikonur: a look back at the first few weeks for ExoMars 2016 at the cosmodrome

22 January 2016 - One month ago, the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli (the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module) travelled aboard two Antonov 124 cargo jets from Turin, Italy, to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to be readied for launch in March.

More on ExoMars Twitter or ExoMars Website

TGO is at Baikonour !

23 Dec. 2015 - The 3rd ExoMars flight containing the Trace Gas Orbiter TGO safely arrived in Baikonur this morning.

More on ExoMars Twitter

ExoMars prepares to leave Europe for launch site

25 Nov. 2015 - The ExoMars spacecraft of the 2016 mission is being prepared for shipping to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of their launch in March. NOMAD, the instrument developped at IASB-BIRA is part of the ExoMars TGO 2016 mission.

More on ExoMars on ESA website



Discrete and diffuse aurorae in the Martian Atmosphere

For the first time, MAVEN surprisingly detected diffuse aurorae in the Northern hemisphere of the planet Mars, where a magnetic field is absent while it was thought it is an indispensable ingredient for the observation of aurorae.

The Belgian newspaper Le Soir dedicated a full page to the planet Mars (.pdf). Dr Arnaud Stiepen from the ULg and member of the SCOOP project was interviewed (in French) over the last discoveries by the Nasa probe MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiting Mars since September 2014.

In addition, an ESA press release about the Mars Express Mission placed the work by the team of Jean-Claude Gérard (LPAP, ULg) in front.

Armed with 10 years of Mars Express observations, they have detected discrete ultraviolet auroras in the Sourthern hemisphere on many occasions, and have analysed in detail how and where they are produced in the Martian atmosphere. They concluded that the auroras appear only under special conditions, near the boundary between open and closed magnetic field lines (see Figure below).

Unlike the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere of Mars has regions where the rocks have preserved the memory of a past magnetism. This residual magnetic field is called paleomagnetism. The ultraviolet auroras associated with known magnetic anomalies in Mars’ crust are confined, rare and transient events that vary in time and space. They are very different from the auroras seen on other planets.

Aurorae
Distribution map of discrete aurores (white circles) detected in the Southern hemisphere of Mars. The paleomagnetism appears on the background. © ULg, ESA.

Both phenomena, discrete and diffuse auroraes on Mars, are detailed on the Daily Science website (in French).

 

 

PSS Special Issue : "Exploration of Venus"

Sep. 2015 - Compiling the latest results from the Venus Express ESA mission, a special issue has been published in Planet. Space Sc. - IASB-BIRA researchers have been very active

Several papers with IASB-BIRA first authors were published in the PSS special issue on the "Exploration of Venus":

and several papers where IASB-BIRA researchers are co-authors:

EuroPlanet - a new Horizon 2020 project !

15 Sep. 2015 - Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure launches new era of planetary collaboration in Europe

A €9.95 million project to integrate and support planetary science activities across Europe has been launched. The Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) is funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and will run for four years until August 2019. The project is led by the Open University, UK, and has 34 beneficiary institutions from 19 European countries. Europlanet 2020 RI will address key scientific and technological challenges facing modern planetary science by providing open access to state-of-the-art research data, models and facilities across the European Research Area.

Prof Nigel Mason, the Project Coordinator, said, “We are delighted to announce the launch of this new Research Infrastructure. Since its foundation in 2005, Europlanet has played an immensely effective role in bringing together the European planetary science community. In this latest project, we have an ambitious programme of research, access and networking activities. In particular, our focus will be on fostering a closer integration between industry and academia in planetary science, and supporting institutions and partners from countries in early stages of developing planetary research programmes.”

For more information:http://www.europlanet-2020-ri.eu
Follow on Twitter via @Europlanet2020

Belgian technology ready for Mars

30 March 2015 - In January 2016, the ExoMars trace Gas Orbiter will be launched toward Mars with on board, a new instrument resulting from an international consortium led by Belgium. This instrument will study the Martian atmosphere, looking for traces of life. On Tuesday 24 March 2015 the instrument will be visible in Belgium for the last time before leaving our country to be delivered to the European Space Agency for the final integration on the satellite.

Communiqué de presse: De la technologie de pointe belge prête à partir pour Mars
Persbericht: Belgische toptechnologie klaar voor vertrek naar planeet Mars

Measuring Mars' Ancient Ocean: NOMAD co-Is interviewed !

5 March 2015 - For decades, planetary scientists have suspected that ancient Mars was a much warmer, wetter environment than it is today, but estimates of just how much water Mars has lost since its formation vary widely. Now, new isotopic measurements by researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center reveal that an ocean once covered approximately twenty percent of the Martian surface. This new picture of early Mars is considerably wetter than many previous estimates, raising the odds for the ancient habitability of the Red Planet.

See the NASA movie on Youtube

See also an article in the Libre Belgique (in French)

Mystery Mars plume baffles scientists

16 February 2015 - Plumes seen reaching high above the surface of Mars are causing a stir among scientists studying the atmosphere on the Red Planet. ... more

NOMAD in the press

12 February 2015 - The Search For Volcanic Eruptions On Mars Reaches The Next Level. A new study of emissions from Martian volcanoes suggests there is no activity going on right now, but researchers aren’t ruling out recent eruptions. Using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the science team searched for signs of sulfuric acid — a key indicator of volcanic activity. They focused on the major volcanic provinces of Mars (Tharsis and Syrtis Major) in two, multi-week observation sessions, one from December to January 2012, and another in May and June 2014. ... more

And finally with UVIS !

19 Jan 2015 - and the 3d channel UVIS has now also recorded some spectra !

And now with LNO !

16 Jan 2015 - Some more spectra ... with the LNO channel now

First absorption spectra of NOMAD !

16 Jan 2015 - During the final tests before closing NOMAD, some measurements were done with the SO channel. Just a lamp in front of the entrance and here you go ... a fantastic spectrum of the air ! Today still from Earth, soon from Mars.

Venus Workshop at ISRO, Bangalore (India)

2-6 June 2014 - The 2014 BeMind meeting was organized once more at Bangolare at the ISITE site of ISRO. The agenda comprised 3 full days of presentations, mainly from Indian researchers on Venus and the possibility to build a next Venus mission ! The last 2 days of the week were reserved for 'Hands on': one day on ASIMUT and How to use the SOIR data; the second day: same for VMC and VIRTIS data, plus a very interesting First Course on radar telemetry.

First FP7 - EuroVenus Project Workshop in Nice

8-9 April 2014 : Members of the FP7 - EuroVenus Project met in Nice, France last week to discuss the progress of each work group on various aspects of the Venus atmosphere. Discussions involved the bringing together and the further coupling between the available observations from the ground and from the space, which offer different and complimentary insights into the composition and dynamics of the Venus Atmosphere.

Dr. Ann C. Vandaele presented a summary of VEX SO2 data (including SOIR) and comparative modelling results that had been the outcome of the ISSI SO2 group meeting in Bern in November 2013. Ann C. Vandaele also presented the outcome of a two days workshop held in Brussels in February in the frame of the EuroVenus project. The workshop aimed at identifying possible comparison and at validating temperatures data derived from different instruments onboard VEX. Dr V. Wilquet presented the latest results from SOIR on minor molecular constituents and aerosol extinction within the mesosphere. Dr S. Chamberlain introduced herself as a new post-doctoral member of the EuroVenus/SOIR team, who will be using SOIR data to study water vapour in the mesosphere.

 

Venus Express : 8 years in orbit !

10 April 2014 : Venus Express, an ESA mission, has been orbiting around Venus for 8 years now. It was 11 April 2006 when, after a delicate manoeuvre, Venus Express entered into orbit around Venus, and started a series of gradually smaller loops around the planet to reach its 24-hour science orbit (spanning between 66 000 over the South pole and 250 kilometres over the North pole) on 7 May 2006.

 

New laboratory measurement of CH4 lines

01 March 2014 : In preparation of the next mission to Mars, ExoMars, researchers at BISA performed preliminary tests using new measurements of CH4 lines obtained by the LLS (Laboratoire Lasers et Spectroscopies) of the Namur University.
Using a tunable diode-laser spectrometer, we have measured the CO2-broadening coefficients of 28 absorption lines in the ν4 band of CH4. Each line was recorded at room temperature (296 K) and at 4 different pressures, ranging from 8 to 50 mbar. The experimental determination of the CO2-broadening coefficients was performed by fitting a theoretical profile to the experimental profile of each line recorded at each pressure. Voigt, Rautian–Sobel’man and Galatry models were therefore used. The impact of these determinations on atmospheric investigations on CO2-rich planetary atmospheres are addressed.

Complete article

 

ExoMars Science Working Meeting in Moscow

4 February 2014 : Today the 6th ESWT (ExoMars Science Working Team) meeting begins in Moscow. Representatives from ESA and ROSCOSMOS, as well of all the instruments on board the 2016 and 2018 missions are present to discuss the status of the missions.

 

Kick-Off meeting of the FP7 Cross-Drive project

23 January 2014 : The Kick-off meeting of the FP7 Cross-Drive was held at TAS-I (Thales Alenia Space-Italy) in Turin, Italy. We got the opportunity to meet all the partners in this new project and to visit the facilities of TAS-I as well as those of ALTEC, both partners in this new venture. We could see BepiColombo being tested in one of the clean rooms and the Martian terrain where rovers can learn how to drive on the Martian surface. Unfortunately no part of the ExoMars satellite was available for viewing!

 

Planetary Aeronomy members at the MAMO

18 January 2014 : We presented the latest results of some of our ongoing work at the MAMO conference in Oxford.

 

Happy New Year !!

"Exploring Mars"

Our next public presentation will take place on November 26 at the British school of Brussels organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Exploring Mars
Dr. Ann C. Vandaele, Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy
7:45pm on Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Swoosh Lounge, British School of Brussels
Leuvensesteenweg 19, 3080 Tervuren

 

ExoMars lander module named Schiaparelli

8 November 2013 : The entry, descent and landing demonstrator module that will fly on the 2016 ExoMars mission has been named ‘Schiaparelli’ in honour of the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who famously mapped the Red Planet’s surface features in the 19th century.

ESA_tweet

More details on the ESA website

 

ESA has a new Belgian Twitter account !

14 October 2013 : ESA has created its new Belgian Twitter account at @ESA_BE. You will find there the latest space news in French and Dutch. The first tweet will be sent from the European Interparlementary Conference which is held in Brussels on Oct 14.

ESA_tweet

Plus de détails sur le site de l'ESA

Lees meer op het ESA website

 

Mars uncovered

14 October 2013: On Friday 4th of October, at the launch of the 'World Space Week 2013' in Belgium, the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium had the pleasure of welcoming Frank De Winne (director of the European astronaut centre of ESA). Together with scientists of the Space Pole in Uccle, he answered questions from the public on Mars and space exploration.

Besides the famous Belgian astronaut, the panel was composed of Sofie Delanoye, Yannick Willame and Valérie Wilquet of the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy and Véronique Dehant of the Royal Observatory of Belgium. Together they tried to shed some light on the mysteries of the red planet and discuss various ethical and philosophical aspects of the space exploration, and this at the high pace of the many questions from the public.

The discussion was followed by a 360° projection of the movie "Dawn of the Space Age" in the dome of the Planetarium. The film brings to life the great moments of space exploration using reconstructed images, from the launch of Sputnik to the International Space Station, through the flight of Yuri Gagarin and the first steps of the mankind on the Moon.

 

ESA Rover's first tracks

9 October 2013: ESA’s test rover has been fitted with scientific instruments and made its first tracks in the sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert.

ExoMars Roover

More details on ESA Science website

 

Desert trial for ESA Mars rover

04 October 2013: Next week will see ESA’s most ambitious planetary rover test yet. Robotic exploration of a Mars-like desert in South America will be overseen from the UK, providing experience for future missions to the Red Planet.

ExoMars Roover

More details on ESA Science website

 

BISA researchers present at EPSC

10 Sept 2013 - BISA researchers were present at the European Planetary Science Congress held in London 9-13 September.

Dr Arnaud Mahieux presented results from Venus Express with the SOIR instrument; Dr Rachel Drummond presented NOMAD that will be launched with ExoMars 2016; Dr Frank Daerden and Dr Lori Neary presented their work on the Mars Global Circulation model.

New article published on the improved calibration of SOIR

1 Sept 2013 - A new in-depth study of the calibration of the SOIR spectra has been published in Optics Express. The different steps from raw spectra to archived data are described and explained in detail. These consist of corrections for the dark current and for the non-linearity of the detector; removing bad pixels, as well as deriving noise. The spectral calibration procedure is described, along with all ancillary data necessary for the understanding and interpretation of the SOIR data. These include the full characterization of the AOTF filter, one of the major elements of the instrument.

Complete article

BISA organized the 2013 SPICAM/V Team Meeting in Catania

16-19 June 2013 - All members from the SPICAM and SPICAV teams held their annual team meeting at Catania, Sicily. The topics covered different aspects of the missions Vex and Mex. Of particular importance this year: the 10th anniversary of the Mars express mission.

BISA researchers were present at the Venus International Conference

10 June 2013 - During one week researchers from all over the world met at Catania, Sicily to present their latest findings on Venus, its atmosphere, interior, history, ... The programme of the conference can be found here.

Web site update

A new page has been added to the Planetary website listing all the projects in which the Planetary Aeronomy Group is involved.

The ExoMars Shake

The strutural model of the EDM part of ExoMars 2016 is being tested on the shakers at the moment. ESA has also started a journal for ExoMars. This is all part of the growing Phase C/D activities for ExoMars 2016. Flight parts must be delivered next year!

Venus Express on a stamp

New English stamps. To mark the 50th anniversary of Britain's first contribution to space exploration, a set of six commemorative stamps have been emitted. They all feature images from European Space Agency missions. One represents the Venus Express mission.

 

SOIR spectra have been analyzed and the hot band 2ν1 + ν2ν2 of 16O12C18O has been observed experimentally for the first time.

15 Dec. 2012 – The results obtained by the SOIR team and co-workers have been published in the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer. We present absorption bands of carbon dioxide isotopologues, detected by the SOIR instrument on-board the Venus Express Satellite.

Thanks to its high spectral resolution (0.12–0.18 cm-1), we have access to information about the rovibrational excitation state of the molecules present in Venus’ atmosphere. The lines of three vibrational bands have been assigned. They belong to the vibrational bands 21101–01101 and 01111–00001 of 16O12C18O, 20001–00001 of 16O13C18O.

The latter two had been already spotted in planetary atmospheric spectra, on Mars and Venus:

They have been reanalyzed in this study, dispelling doubt about their assignment. The spectroscopic constants characterizing them were obtained for the first time, using a band-by-band analysis tool. These results are a first step towards a systematic assignment of absorption lines in the SOIR’s spectra.

Complete article

 

NOMAD and TGO mentioned in The Hindu Times !

15 Nov. 2012 - The NOMAD instrument on ExoMars TGO has been cited in an article discussing the presence of methane on Mars.

The Hindu Times reports on the non detection of CH4 announced last week by the Curiosity team. Curiosity is not the last chance to look more closely for methane in the near future: ExoMars, and in particular NOMAD, are being prepared to this goal.

The complete article

 

'Kick-off' meeting of the SIROCCO project

13 Nov. 2012 - Members of the Planetary Aeronomy Team were present at the Kick-Off meeting of the SIROCCO project.

The meeting was held at the premises of ESA, at ESTEC, in Noordwijk (The Netherlands). The objective of this new project is "The synergetic SWIR and IR retrievals of near-surface concentrations of CH4 and CO for Earth and Planetary atmospheres".

hiresmir Introhiresmir attendance

 

Some news about Mars, methane, Curiosity and ExoMars TGO

5 Nov. 2012 - Curiosity is looking hard to find some trace of methane. Up to now, nothing, or more precisely concentrations below the detection limit of the TDLS instrument. Implications for the ExoMars TGO ?

The complete article

 

'Kick-off' meeting of the IAP Planet TOPERS project

1 Oct. 2012 - Members of the Planetary Aeronomy Team were present at the Kick-Off meeting of the Planet TOPERS project.

The meeting was held at the premises of ROB, coordinating the network. This project is organized in the frame of the InterUniversity Attraction Poles and regroups different Belgian teams.

hiresmir Intro hiresmir attendance

Planet Topers Website

 

A curious cold layer in the atmosphere of Venus

1 Oct. 2012 - IASB-BIRA paper highlighted on the ESA News website.

The recent paper published by the SOIR Team on CO2 densities and temperatures has been noticed by ESA. In this new analysis based on five years of observations using ESA’s Venus Express, scientists have uncovered a very chilly layer at temperatures of around –175ºC in the atmosphere 125 km above the planet’s surface.

“The finding is very new and we still need to think about and understand what the implications will be,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Venus Express project scientist.

More info on the ESA site (in English)...

 

Kick-off meeting of HiResMIR

27-28 Sept. 2012 - Members of the Planetary Aeronomy Team were present at the Kick-Off meeting of the HiResMIR project.

The meeting was held at the PHLAM laboratory of the Université de Lille in France, one of the partners of this GDRI (Groupe de recherche international). This group is composed of different teams from France and Europe and aims at the exchange of ideas between spectroscopic laboratories and atmospheric, planetary and astronomy groups. We will organize dedicated workshops on how to better link these two different communities and how to fulfil the spectroscopic needs in planetary and astronomy studies. A thematic Summer School wil be organized in Fréjus the first week of June 2013.

hiresmir Intro hiresmir attendance

More info

 

Venus Workshop in Kerala, India

23-24 July 2012 - Members of the Planetary Aeronomy Team present at a workshop on Venus at the Indian Institute for Space Science and Technology.

This ISRO centre has a new teaching programme, as well as making technical developments for new Indian satellite programmes. The Masters students (some on their first day of the academic year) were very interested in how to get involved in planetary science. Both they and senior staff members enjoyed presentations from international experts on the Venusian atmosphere, circulation models and measures taken from space-based instruments.

Sanjay + gift Ann Carine presenting

This workshop was organised by Sanjay Limaye (seen on the left receiving a mask representing a typical Keralan dancer) to occur after the COSPAR workshop, where Ann Carine and Rachel both gave presentations on technical and scientific work performed at IASB-BIRA.

More info (in English)...

Simultaneous observations of Venus

11-16 July 2012 - A Japanese team observed Venus from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii while SOIR performed measurements.

Prof. N. Iwagami (Tokyo University), S. Ohtsuki (Senshu University) and two colleagues planned an observation session at the Mauna kea observatories. S. Robert from BISA joined them.

team@IRTFThe dates chosen enabled simultaneous observations between SOIR and CSHELL, one of the IRTF instruments. The scientific objectives of these measurements aimed at studying the "O2 airglow" phenomenon and the isotopic ratios in oxygen atoms in the Venus atmosphere.

 

Observation of the transit of Venus from Hawaii

01 June 2012 - Brad Sandor of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, will be at the JCMT at Hawaii on 5th June to observe the transit.

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is one of the few telescopes in the world capable of directly observing the planet Venus as it transits across the face of the Sun, and it plans to take full advantage of this last opportunity for 115 years.

More info...

 

SOIR scientists give a talk on the Venus Transit

29 May 2012 - Séverine Robert and Arnaud Mahieux gave a presentation on some recent SOIR results and the involvement of the SOIR team in the observation of the Venus Transit of 5-6 June.

SOIR_results

Arnaud made a summary of the SOIR results that were recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on the CO2 and temperature vertical profiles, leading to the definition of the VAST compilation. Then Séverine made a historical and scientific overview of the past observations of the Venus transit. After describing the scientifically significant result, the Sun-Earth distance, deduced from the last centuries observations, she explained what were the peculiarities of the 2012 observation. The SOIR team will be at Svalbard, one of the rare places in Europe where it will be possible to observe the entire Venus Transit. And during that time, SOIR will be observing Venus from its orbit.

 

SOIR delivers new CO2 and temperature profiles of Venus atmosphere

24 May 2012 - Results obtained by the SOIR instrument around Venus were published in the international Journal of Geophysical Research.

SOIR_results

In this paper, we focused on the main constituent of the Venus atmosphere measured by the SOIR instrument, carbon dioxide. We explained how the temperature, the total density and the total pressure are derived from the observed CO2 density vertical profiles. A striking, permanent, temperature minimum at 125 km is observed. The dataset was processed in order to obtain a Venus Atmosphere from SOIR measurements at the Terminator (VAST) compilation for different latitude regions and extending from 70 up to 170 km in altitude. The results were compared to many literature results obtained from ground-based observations, previous missions, and the Venus Express mission. The homopause altitude was also determined.

To the publications list...

The planetary team at EGU

8 May 2012 - The General Assembly of the Europen Geosciences Union took place at the end of April. This annual event brings more than 10000 participants, studying various Earth sciences, together in Vienna, Austria. The BISA planetary department was represented as well. EGU_logo

A. Mahieux, L. Neary, S. Robert and Y. Willame made the trip to attend this one-week conference. They took the opportunity to show their latest results: 2 oral communications and 6 posters were presented. They could see their foreign colleagues and discuss current and future collaborations.

SRobert_EGUSTakagi_EGU

 

Venus Express outreach in Brussels

7 March 2012 - As Dr. Sanjay Limaye was transiting through Brussels, Tina Michetti, science teacher, seized the opportunity to invite him to her secondary school, the Institut Don Bosco in Woluwé-Saint-Pierre. He was accompanied by Séverine Robert (IASB) who ensured good communication between Dr. Limaye and 40 kids, aged between 12 and 14.

After a nice introduction by the teachers of the school, Dr. S. Limaye gave a presentation about the Venus transit and its history, going from 1639, the year of the first observation by J. Horrocks, to 2012 as a transit will occur in June this year.

Mars Earth Venus

Their teacher had asked the children to prepare some questions and they were free to ask anything. We went through practical, but also more scientific questions like:

  • « What will happen to the spacecraft after the end of the mission ? »
  • « How do you refill the tank of the spacecraft when empty ? »
  • « Is there life on Venus ? »
  • « Why is Venus spinning upside down ? »
  • « How come it is so hot on Venus ? »

The students showed some interest in black holes as well. The activity lasted 1h30 and was followed by a delicious cold lunch organized by the school, to which a few kids were invited, together with their teachers and the two visitors. It was again an opportunity to have an open discussion with the students.

 

IASB-BIRA participates in the worldwide observation of the Venus Transit (5-6 June 2012)

2 March 2012 - IASB-BIRA is involved in the Venus Express mission of ESA with the SOIR instrument. SOIR will be operated through out the complete duration of the transit of Venus and its observations will be compared to observations performed with instruments on Earth or with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Moreover, our scientists will observe the transit from the Svalbard Observatory (in Norway).

Mars Earth Venus

 

Venus may be slowing down!

10 February 2012 - ESA new reports today a discovery made with Venus Express! Using the VIRTIS instrument at infrared wavelengths to penetrate the thick cloud cover, scientists studied surface features and discovered that some were displaced by up to 20 km from where they should be given the accepted rotation rate as measured by NASA’s Magellan orbiter in the early 1990s.

Surface features seen by Venus Express some 16 years after Magellan's measurements could only be lined up if the length of the Venus day is on average 6.5 minutes longer than Magellan measured.

Scientists, including Özgur Karatekin of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, looked at the possibility of short-term random variations in the length of a Venus day, but concluded these should average themselves out over longer timescales.

Recent atmospheric models have shown that the planet could have weather cycles stretching over decades, which could lead to equally long-term changes in the rotation period. Other effects could also be at work, including exchanges of angular momentum between Venus and the Earth when the two planets are relatively close to each other.

While further study is needed, it’s clear that Venus Express is penetrating far deeper into the mysteries of this enigmatic planet then anyone dreamed.

Read more...

Aerosol climatology on Venus

23 January 2012 - Four years of SOIR/VEX measurements were used to analyze the geo-temporal variability of the haze above the cloud layer in the Venusian atmosphere. While the haze presents high variability with time, a clear structure in the latitudinal distribution of the haze is observed: at a given altitude, the haze is much thicker at the equator than at the poles. These results have been published in the Icarus special issue ‘Advances in Venus Science’.

  • Read more...

  • Happy anniversary : 2000th orbit for Venus Express !

    12 October 2011 - Venus Express has been circling Venus for the 2000th times ! "The spacecraft is doing very well and more and more exciting results are coming out of the analysis of the data. Congratulations to all who have been involved in this great mission in one way or the other. This year we have already published 72 scientific publication. Thank you very much for your support of the mission", said Håkan Svedhem, the Mission Scientist.

    200thorbit of Venus Express

    IASB-BIRA scientists at DPS-EPSC

    3-7 October 2011 - Scientists from the Planetary Aeronomy research unit were present at the DPS-EPS joint conference held in Nantes (France) last week.

    DPS-EPSS DPS-EPSS DPS-EPSS DPS-EPSS DPS-EPSS DPS-EPSS

    They reported on a variety of topics including:

    • The NOMAD instrument (.pdf): description and status of the instrument, its 3 channels (SO, LNO, and UVIS), description of the observation modes, partners involved

    Tenuous ozone layer discovered in Venus' atmosphere

    7 October 2011 - Using observations of Venus performed with the SPICAV-UV instrument on ESA's Venus Express, scientists have detected, for the first time, a tenuous layer of ozone in this planet's atmosphere. The discovery poses new challenges to the characterisation of planetary atmospheres, especially in the quest for biomarkers on extrasolar planets. Scientists from IASB-BIRA have participated in this discovery.

    ozone on Venus

    More...

    Flows seen on Mars - may be salty water!

    5 August 2011 - NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been monitoring the surface of Mars since mid-2006. The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instrument is a US-Swiss collaboration and today they released an article in the Science Journal describing some interesting features that they have noticed in their images.

    Dark markings are seen on steep slopes of craters that appear and incrementally grow during warm seasons and fade in cold seasons. The locations they appear in are the warmest spots on Mars, but the surface pressure would not allow pure liquid water. They therefore propose that brine (very salty water) could cause these dark marks. The CRISM spectrometer on board MRO does not see water absorption in their spectra, so there must be very little water evaporation from these flows.

    water on Mars

    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

    The possible observation of liquid water on mars today would be of great interest for astrobiology! The ExoMars Trace Gas orbiter to be launched by ESA & NASA in 2016, carries a followup experiment to HiRISE - called HiSci - as well as the Belgian-led instrument NOMAD. Perhaps these, more sensitive instruments, will give further details of this exciting discovery.

    More...

    PA was present at the Inauguration of the "Cradle of Life" Exhibition

    23 June 2011 - The Planetary Aeronomy Division had a poster describing its activities at the inauguration of the "Cradle of Life" exhibition, held at the Museum of Natural Sciences (Brussels) on June 23th. The exhibition was hosted by the European Science Foundation and COST - European Cooperation in Science and Technology, as part of the celebrations of International Year of Chemistry. The Exhibition explored how chemistry is providing clues as to two of the great unanswered scientific questions How did life begin on Earth? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?

    For more info on the COST actions in Belgium

    PA was present at the EGU

    April 2011 - Our young scientists presented the PA activities at the EGU.

    The team was present at the EGU 2011 taking place In Vienna (Austria) from 3 to 8 April. Arnaud and Séverine presented their results orally during the sessions on" Venus Express and Akatsuki" and "Modeling the Experiment, Experimenting the Models" respectively, whereas Yannick proudly stood besides his poster giving information on his sensitivity study of UV aerosols detection.

     

    PhD Thesis of Arnaud Mahieux

    3 March 2011 - Arnaud Mahieux presented his thesis work with success.

    The work presented in the PhD thesis of Arnaud Mahieux concerns the calibration of the SOIR instrument onboard the Venus Express spacecraft as well as the development of an analysis tool to study the measured spectra. The different calibrations were obtained in-flight. These concern the echelle grating (exact Blaze angle computation, Blaze function), the detector (pixel-to-pixel non-uniformity, spectral sensitivity curve, pixel-to-wavenumber relationship, instrument resolution, spectral sampling interval, signal-to-noise ratio, thermal background) and the AOTF (wavenumber to AOTF frequency relation, AOTF transfer function). A spectral inversion algorithm has been developed specifically for the SOIR measurements in solar occultation. The onion peeling method has been implemented using the Optimal Estimation Method. This code allows the inversion of the spectral data in one go, as well as the improvement of some instrumental characteristics. Results concerning carbon dioxide are presented in this study. A selection of vertical profiles extending from 70km to 180km are analyzed in details. They are compared to the hydrostatic profiles, and propositions concerning the terminators' dynamics are formulated.

    Read more ...

    Cours: Académie royale des sciences, des lettres & des beaux-arts de Belgique

    15 February 2011 - Ann Carine Vandaele, PI of NOMAD, gave a course at the Royal Academy of Sciences, Arts and fine Arts of Belgium, also called Belgian College.

    The Belgian College organizes high level courses and conferences for a general public, and more in particular for PhD students.

    Ann Carine Vandaele gave a lecture on "The discovery of planets and moons in our solar system".

    Read more ... (French)

    Publication in Science Connection : Planet Mars

    28 January 2011 - Scientists from IASB-BIRA explain their work on planet Mars in Science Connection, the magazine of the Belgian Science Policy.

    Science Connection provides an in-depth review of the various components of the Belgian Science Policy.

    In the December 2010 issue, scientists of IASB-BIRA and ROB show results of their past, present and future studies of planet Mars. They explain their fascinating work in an understandable way and they try to answer important questions such as "Life on Mars?".

    Read more ... (Dutch)
    Read more ... (French)

    Exhibition : Destination Mars

    29 September 2010 - Scientists from the IASB-BIRA will support the Exhibition "Destination Mars" which is being held at the Museum of the Natural Sciences.

    With Destination Mars, uncover all the mysteries of the red planet. Three topics will be covered: the imagination, the planet and exploration. For the whole family !

    For this occasion, scientists from the IASB-BIRA and the ROB join forces. They have prepared an exciting new leaflet and a brand new web site MarsDiscovery.be describing their common activities relating to the Red Planet. They will also participate to conferences and discussions open to the interested public, and also accessible to the youngest amateur astronomer.

    Read more ...
    Plus d'info ...
    Meer info ...

    SOIR-NOMAD selected for the ESA-NASA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter 2016 mission to Mars

    5 August 2010 - After a recent selection process jointly organized by ESA and NASA, the Belgian-led European instrument SOIR-NOMAD came out as one of the winning proposals for inclusion in the payload of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission to Mars planned for launch to the red planet in 2016.

    SOIR-NOMAD will be developed and built by the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) located in Uccle, in collaboration with other Belgian scientists and engineers and institutes in 3 other European countries (Spain, Italy and the UK) and with additional science support from the USA and Canada. The Principle Investigator (PI) of SOIR-NOMAD is Dr. Ir. Ann Carine Vandaele of BIRA-IASB.

    Read more ...
    Plus d'info ...
    Meer info ...

    Akatsuki launch successful !

    20 May 2010 - The Akatsuki (dawn) orbiter was launched successfully from the anegashima spaceport. It will arrive at Venus in December. Key goals include finding definitive evidence for lightning and for active volcanoes. At Venus it will conduct joint observations with the ESA Venus Express mission.

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    Compteur de Flocons - De sneeuwteller

    16 November 2009 - Frank Daerden is counting snowflakes on Mars.

    Frank Daerden compte pour la NASA les flocons de neige sur Mars. Un élément sensationnel, car l’eau est essentielle pour assurer la vie. Une vie que les scientifiques n’ont pas encore découverte sur Mars. Mais dans une dizaine d’années… peut-être.

    Frank Daerden telt de sneeuwvlokken op de Mars, in samenwerking met de NASA. Een klus met galactische repercussies, want water is essentieel voor het leven zoals wij het kennen. Sneeuw en dus water heeft hij gevonden. Leven op Mars nog niet. Maar Frank Daerden vraagt nog een tiental jaar geduld en dan… misschien.

    read more ... (French)
    read more ... (Dutch)

    Open Days - 3 & 4 October 2009

    3 October 2009 - The Planetary Aeronomy group actively participated to the Open Days of IASB-BIRA by explaining the principles of IR cameras. We took pictures of almost all our visitors ...

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    Snow on Mars

    03 July 2009 - Frank Daerden is the only European participating to the analysis of the Phoenix data. During this study, he derived the size of the ice cristals falling on Mars. The full story has been published in the Science Journal.

    Depuis 2008, la NASA possède un atterrisseur (Phoenix) dans le pôle nord martien. Frank Daerden, scientifique à l’Institut d’Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique (IASB), est l’unique européen à participer à l’analyse des toutes nouvelles données sur les nuages et la pluie de l’atmosphère martienne. Au cours de cette analyse, le Dr Daerden a mesuré des cristaux de glace de tailles exceptionnelles. L’histoire complète sera publiée dans Science magazine ce 3 juillet 2009.

    Sinds 2008 heeft de NASA een lander (Phoenix) in het hoge noorden van de planeet Mars. Wetenschapper Frank Daerden van het Belgisch Instituut voor Ruimte-Aëronomie (BIRA) helpt als enige Europeaan bij het analyseren van de nieuwste gegevens over wolken en neerslag in de Marsatmosfeer. Dr. Daerden bepaalt de grootte van nooit eerder waargenomen vallende ijskristallen. Science magazine publiceert het volledige verhaal op 3 juli.

    Aerosol characterization on Venus

    15 June 2009 - Using all 3 channels of the SPICAV/SOIR instrument onboard Venus Express, characteristics of the Venusian aerosols could be determined. These results have been published in the Journal of Geophys. Research.

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    NASA Group Achievement Award

    21 May 2008 - BIRA-IASB scientists Frank Daerden en Christian Muller recieved the NASA Group Achievement Award as members of the International Study Group iMARS for the multinational collaboration in the planning of a future international Mars Sample Return mission.

    more on IMARS (Dutsch)
    more on IMARS (French)

    Two members of the SOIR team apply for ESA astronauts

    25 June 2008 - ESA started looking for new astronauts, calling to young talented men and women wanting to join the European astronaut pool. The two first Belgian astronauts, Dirk Frimout and Frank De Winne, will maybe have a follower. Among the 8413 candidates, 253 are Belgian and 4 of them are scientists from the Institut d'Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique (IASB). Among them, Rachel Drummond and Arnaud Mahieux from the SOIR team.

    ESA News
    ESA Belgium Local Info (French)
    ESA Belgium Local Info (Dutch)
    Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch)
    Radio Interview Rachel Drummond on air (mp3 - 4.48 MB) (Dutch)

     

    Latest Venus Express results

    28 November 2007 - Venus Express has been making the most detailed study of the planet’s thick and complex atmosphere to date. The latest findings highlight the features that make Venus unique in the Solar System and provide fresh clues as to how the planet is - despite everything - a more Earth-like planetary neighbour than one could have imagined.

    ESA Special on Venus Express

     

    A new gaseous absorption discovered in Venus and Mars

    11 September 2007 - The discovery of a new gaseous absorption in the atmospheres of Mars and Venus (due to an isotope of carbon dioxide) was announced this week at the annual meeting of Division of Planetary Science of the American Association for Astronomy in Orlando, Florida. This new absorption could play a significant role in the greenhouse effect on Venus, and its wavelength domain (near 3.3 micron, in the middle infra-red) could make the search of molecules of biological interest more difficult in the atmosphere of Mars.

    Full story...

     

     

     

     

     

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