|The Angelicum Centre, the venue for EPSC 2010|
During Opening Ceremony No.1, Jean-Pierre Lebreton (the man behind the Huygens probe, the mission that holds the record for touching down on the most distant planetary body to date - Saturn's moon Titan) presented the inaugural Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science was awarded to Jean Lilensten.
Lilensten is a real inspiration in the outreach community. He has spent over 10 years developing an aurora simulator called the 'planeterrella'. The idea came from experiments at the turn of the last century by a Norwegian physicist called Kristian Birkeland. Not only has Lilensten developed a robust portable version of Birkeland's kit, but he has adapted it to show the different kinds of aurora that are generated at large gas giants, as well as smaller planets like Earth.
|The Planeterrella. Credit: Cyril Simon|
Opening Ceremony No. 2 was a celebration of EPSC's arrival in Rome. Europlanet's head, Michel Blanc, as well as Jean-Pierre Lebreton and Manuel Grande (EPSC's co-ordinator) all pointed out that Europlanet owes it's existance to the Cassini-Huygens mission, many parts of which were led by Italians. Our host institution in Rome, the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), has done an amazing job in organising the conference and making everyone feel welcome. Maria Teresa Capria, chair of the Local Organising Committee (and co-ordinator of Europlanet's Virtual Observatory activity, IDIS) is owed an enormous debt of gratitude (and from the Press Room, we should also thank Livia Giacomini, who has done an amazing amount to help us make sure that the fascinating science discussed at the conference reaches a much wider audience in the public and the media).
|The Herschel Space Telescope. Credit: ESA|
- A new golden age of sailing in space, where solar sail-powered 'data clippers' would carry vast quantities of high-resolution data back from heavy-weight missions exploring our Solar System.
- The first Mars observations by ESA's Herschel Space Telescope. These give some intriguing insights into the martian atmosphere.
- Evidence is mounting up that the martian moon, Phobos, formed in orbit around Mars out of debris from a catastrophic impact with the surface of the Red Planet.
It was a long and tough day. However, there appears to be lots of interest in the meeting from the outside world, so it is all worth while.