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Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON)

December 16, 2019

Posted at the request of Wolf Geppert

Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON)
The Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON) will take place at the La Palma & Teneguia Princess Hotel on La Palma Island (Canary Islands, Spain) from 20-24 April 2020. During this meeting also the 2nd General Assembly of the EAI will take place. Scientific sessions are planned covering the following themes:

  • Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems and Detection of Habitable Worlds
  • The Pathway to Complexity: From Simple Molecules to First Life
  • Planetary Environments and Habitability
  • Evolution and Traces of Early Life and Life under Extreme Condition
  • Biosignatures and the Detection of Life beyond Earth
  • Historical, Philosophical, Societal and Ethical Issues in Astrobiology
  • Tracing Life and Identifying Habitable Environments
  • Impacts and their Role in the Evolution of Planets, Moons and Life
  • Protoplanetary disks and their physical and chemical processes

There will be, amongst others,  the following keynote speakers at the event:

Daniela Billi, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
Bertram Bitsch, MPIA Heidelberg, Germany
Joanna Drazkowska, LMU Munich, Germany
Michael Gillon, University of Liège, Belgium
Keyron Hickman-Lewis, CNRS, France
Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell University, USA 
Nancy Kiang, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, USA
Silvano Onofri, University of Tuscia, Italy
Ana-Catalina Plesa, German Aerospace Center, Germany
Sarah Rugheimer, Oxford University, UK 
Eörs Szathmary, Eötvös Lorand University, Hungary

La Palma offers a multitude of  relevant research infrastructures (telescopes) and locations (active volcanoes, recent lava fields, Mars-analogue landscapes,  etc. During the conference excursion (Friday 24th April) many of these will be visited. An optional after conference walk (Saturday 25 April) along the Volcano route (Ruta de los Volcanes) spanning several active volcanoes above 1600m altitude will also be offered.


New Video Interview Series from the Europlanet Early Career and Diversity Committees

November 14, 2019

Note from Rutu Parekh about New Planetary Science Interview Series:


As a part of Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Network Diversity working group ( we try to build diverse working environment for the young and early career researcher community. We interviewed experienced scientists and discussed about their life struggles, motivations and success. This series is specially aimed for the future generation of researchers who face difficult time in their early career.

Recently we launched our first episode of this series, where we interviewed Dr. Rosaly Lopes, planetary volcanologist at JPL-NASA. Her piece of advise is ‘Don’t give up. You keep going. And everyone is going to have papers criticized, proposals rejected and also don’t take it personally’. Do watch her journey here !!!

We will release one interview every month here, so stay tuned to get more updates. Feel free to spread it around with your friends, colleagues and on your social media accounts. We would love to have as much feedback as possible.

Summary from the Planetary Allyship Meeting 2019

October 7, 2019

The following post was compiled by the Planetary Allyship Group including the organizers and attendees of the meeting:

The Planetary Allyship Meeting is an informal group that has met at the Division of Planetary Science’s annual conference since 2015 to discuss issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion among those who have privilege to support folks who have less. Write-ups of previous meetings are available here: 2016, 2017, and 2018. Interested parties can sign up to an e-mail list here –

The fourth annual DPS Planetary Allyship Meeting took place on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, during the joint EPSC-DPS Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Amidst the coffee and croissants, we discussed several issues that span the Atlantic, affecting both our American and European colleagues, and issues that seem unique to each side of the divide.

Read more…

What’s new for women+ on the science teams for NASA’s robotic planetary missions?

September 13, 2019

This post was written by: Julie A. Rathbun (PSI), J. A. Grier (PSI), Kathy Mandt (APL), Franck Marchis (SETI), Moses Milazzo (Other Orb), Jen Piatek (CCSU), Edgard Rivera-Valentín (LPI), Kunio Sayanagi (Hampton U.), Matthew S. Tiscareno (SETI)

In this article, we examine the percentage of women-presenting people (hereafter referred to as women+) on spacecraft science teams.  This and our previous analyses examine gender presentation and not actual gender. Actual gender is not binary and can only be determined by asking each individual.  However, gender presentation is likely an important factor in considering implicit and other biases that are likely impacting the selection of spacecraft science teams. This is not a scholarly article and no social scientists are co-authors.  Instead, we, a group of practicing planetary scientists, inferred the gender of each individual who was listed as a member of a spacecraft science team. We are assuming that if we perceive an individual as being a woman, for example, other planetary scientists would also perceive that individual in that way and treat them according to the usual stereotypes and implicit biases that are often associated with women in science.  We did not use explicit criteria, but instead allowed our unconscious biases to inform our decisions. We have noticed that currently, most planetary scientists still perceive only two genders and, therefore, are likely to make decisions based on their interpretations of the gender binary. Furthermore, many of the scientists whose gender we inferred have retired or have passed away, so looking at actual gender by surveying the individuals involved would not have been possible, though we suggest missions begin doing this now.  Non-binary scientists have made great advances in planetary science, and we hope that the planetary science community will gain a deeper appreciation of genders beyond the gender binary and that we will be able to study the more holistic gender diversity that exists on science teams. We applaud the scientists that are working to change this and strongly recommend everyone read this white paper submitted to the Astronomy 2020 Decadal Survey committee (

Additionally, true diversity and inclusion rest on much more than gender. Studies have shown that racial and ethnic minority groups are the most underrepresented in planetary science (Horst et al., 2018; Schindhelm et al., 2019; Bernard and Cooperdock, 2018).  Furthermore, most studies don’t even consider disability status, LGBTQ+ status, or other marginalized identities. 

Rathbun (2017) found the names of the original science team members for 26 NASA robotic planetary missions that were selected over a period of 41 years.  They used the work of a group of planetary scientists (some of the same authors as this post, so hereafter we will use “we”) that went through these lists of science team members. In the cases where one of us had met the person, we used the gender we had been using for that person.  At that time we did not know of any non-binary scientists on the lists. If we had not met the person, we looked for photographs on-line and determined gender from those. In some cases, we found articles about the person that used gender pronouns. We found no cases of non-binary gender pronouns being used.  In a small number of cases, we relied on the name only to infer the person’s gender.

Our results published in Rathbun (2017) showed that women+ are underrepresented on the science teams for NASA’s robotic planetary missions.  While women+ make up more than 50% of the US population, they make up only 25-30% of the planetary science community. But, their representation on the science teams for NASA’s robotic spacecraft is even lower, having remained constant at an average value of ~15% since the beginning of the millennium, with individual missions ranging between ~10%-25% women+.  On the plot, the area of the circle is proportional to the log of the size of the mission team.

Read more…

Invitation to EPSC/DPS Sagan Medal Lecture by Dr. Carrie Nugent

September 6, 2019

One more EPSC/DPS note – the amazing Dr. Carrie Nugent will be giving the Sagan Medal Public Lecture on Thursday night (the 19th) at 7:30 pm at the University of Geneva campus (not too far from the old/down town).

Carrie is a TED Fellow and gives very entertaining/informative talks :).

The title is “Asteroid impacts and Spacepod”.

All details including location can be found here:

Talk abstract:

An asteroid impact is the only natural disaster we have the technology to prevent. But prevention takes time, so we need to discover and track near‐Earth asteroids now. The first part of my talk will cover notable asteroid impacts and ongoing efforts to discover near-Earth asteroids.

The second part of the talk will discuss my outreach work. I love talking with other scientists and engineers that explore space for a living. I started recording and sharing these conversations as a podcast, Spacepod.

Spacepod now reaches listeners from every continent and all walks of life. I’ll share stories about how Spacepod has changed listeners’ lives. Some write to say they decided to study physics or astronomy because of the show. Others say hearing about the cosmos helps them get through tough personal times. And some listeners have shared that Spacepod broadened their view of who can be a scientist. I love these stories, and they motivate me to continue hosting and producing the show.

Reminder! Register for the 2019 DPS WiPS Event in Geneva by Sept. 7th

September 5, 2019

Hey All! We still have some spots left for the lunch this year.

Read more…

Invitation to the 2019 EPSC/DPS Women in Planetary Science Discussion Hour! RSVP by Sept 7th.

August 20, 2019

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 18th, 2019

Time: 12:00-1:15 pm

Place: EPSC/DPS Conference venue, Saturn Lecture Room, Geneva Switzerland

Join us for the annual Women in Planetary Science event over lunch. All are welcome!  We will discuss professional development topics related to diversity and inclusion in planetary science.  The presentation/discussion schedule will be announced on the registration page. Pre-registration at is required to receive a lunch (available to the first ~200 registrants due the generosity of our sponsors: Aura and Southwest Research Institute), and registration is recommended even if you are bringing your own lunch so we can balance room size with attendance size. 

*Registration deadline to receive a lunch has been revised to Sept. 7th*

More details and RSVP at:

A big thanks to our sponsors for this year!

To learn more about AURA or SwRI please visit:,, and

Summary from the WiPS Networking event at LPSC 2019

May 12, 2019

Thanks up front to our wonderful speakers, everyone who helped organize the event this year, and to everyone who attended!  Dr. Nicolle Zellner led the organization this year, but the full team listed below helped with many aspects of the event. Big thanks to the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences for continuing to sponsor the event. It wouldn’t be such a fabulous event without all of those things!

The below post was thoughtfully written by Dr. Rajani Dhingra:

The Women in Planetary Science (WiPS) event this year celebrated the women scientists who have contributed to Planetary Science since the Apollo Era. The panelists invited were Dr. Carle Pieters (Brown University), Andrea Mosie (Johnson Space Center), and Judy Allton (Johnson Space Center). Emily Lakdawalla (Planetary Society) was the panel moderator.


Dr. Nicolle Zellner started the event by remembering Dr. Susan Neiber, who provides the inspiration for these annual events. She also advertised the Workforce Development poster session which included several posters that highlight advancements and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of Planetary Science.

Emily started the panel by asking what the panelists’ first LPSC experience was like?

Read more…

Announcing the 11th Annual Susan Niebur WiPS Networking Event – LPSC 2019

February 26, 2019

This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of LPSC, eminent women who worked at NASA and/or participated in LPSCs since the beginning (or near to it) will share their experiences. Join us for what’s sure to be an exciting panel discussion.

When: Wednesday, March 20, 2019; 5:30 to ~7:30 pm
Where: Waterway 1-3 (in the Conference Venue – Woodlands Waterway Marriott, The Woodlands, TX)
Light snacks/appetizers will be served thanks to generous sponsorship from the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences – Thank you!

This event is open to all!

Please forward this invitation/sign-up to your colleagues and friends who might be interested.  Registration is not required but we would like to get some idea of numbers. Anyone is welcome to come late or leave early if they need.   More info and registration at:

Congressional Gold Medal Nomination for the FLATs

February 13, 2019

Starting in 1960, 13 experienced female pilots underwent many of the same physical and psychological tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts and often performed better. Though they never flew in space, the First Lady Astronaut Trainess (FLATs), also known as “the Mercury 13”, provided evidence that women would be able to tolerate space’s extreme environments.

The Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian honor, has been given over 200 times. Fewer than 10% of the medals have been received by women, however, and just five have been awarded for outstanding contributions in air and space exploration. The good news is that legislation to award Gold Medals to the “Hidden Figures” is moving forward and the better news is that momentum is building to also support a nomination for the FLATs.

Learn more about the nomination and these trail-blazing women here, or visit the Women in Astronomy page and the NASA History Office.

You could also watch the 2018 Netflix documentary or read Martha Ackmann’s book.

If you think these women are worthy of a nomination and a Medal, please sign the petition and/or contact your representative to let him/her/them know you support this effort. And please help to spread the word. Thank you!

Summary of DPS 2018 Planetary Allyship Meeting

January 20, 2019

The following article was written by the event organizers, Brian Jackson, David Grinspoon, Bob Pappalardo, and Matt Tiscareno.

On Thursday, Oct 25, during the 2018 annual Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) conference in Knoxville TN, the Planetary Science Allyship group held its fourth annual meeting to discuss how people in non-marginalized groups can support equity in the scientific community. The meeting was included in the official DPS schedule and advertised in the program:

Please join us for discussion about harassment, bias, and what we can do to help change the culture. All DPS members are welcome, with the goal of continuing a conversation among men about how we can raise awareness and be proactive on these issues.

The gathering attracted 13 attendees, roughly split between men and women, and the discussion lasted for about 1.5 hours and was facilitated by Matthew Tiscareno and Brian Jackson. The meeting was less formal than previous meetings — Tiscareno had assembled a rough outline of discussion topics, but attendees were invited to interrupt with their thoughts and ideas.

Read more…

Congratulations to the New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx Teams

January 2, 2019

Just when you think space can’t get any cooler, both New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx got just a little bit closer to targets that will most likely answer questions about the origin and evolution of our solar system.

On December 31, 2018 (7:43 UTC), OSIRIS-REx entered a 62-hour orbit that carries it to within ~1 mile of asteroid Bennu’s surface.  Read more about the insertion here and see the list of OSIRIS-REx team members here.

Around the same time, New Horizons was flying by Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, aka Ultima Thule or “Peanut”, the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft. The New Horizons team is also pretty cool: women make up ~30% of the staff and ~25% of the mission’s science leadership. See pictures and read interviews with some of our colleagues here.


Best wishes to you all in 2019!fireworks.3