Friday, March 18, 2016

Hanging out with Planetary Scientists

-Alison

So I will be attending my very first Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) next week 3/20-3/25/2016. It is an annual gathering of folks who study all sorts of awesome things off of Earth. This includes our nearest neighbors like our moon and Mars, but also celestial object further afield, like that rubber ducky shaped comet 67P, and things beyond Pluto in the Kupier belt. I am very excited for this conference because I’ve been hearing about it for years from friends and colleagues, and my attendance means I’ve got enough data that I might be able to say something about another planet. That just blows my mind.
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko images by the European Space Agency's NAVCAM on the Rosetta spacecraft.
I am also excited about being a microblogger for the conference. This means that my twitter feed will be full of tidbits from presentations and events during the conference. That could include discoveries new to me, like how to pronounce some of the crater names on Ceres (a dwarf planet that hangs out between Mars and Jupiter and uses names of harvest goddesses for its features), and also discoveries that are new to the community like fresh results from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.  I’ll be going to as many sessions as possible with topics from impact craters and volcanoes of Mars, to the NASA facilities for experimentally recreating conditions on other planets.  There are also another 40 plus microbloggers who will be sharing information on twitter, facebook and their blogs. You can watch the #LPSC2016 hashtag or follow the scientists directly.
Lava flows on Mars imaged by the Mars Global Surveyor Satellite, image courtesy of NASA.

Conferences are also an important chance for scientists to meet up with collaborators, friends, representatives from funding agencies, and to meet peers. I will be going to a few events just to meet people, like the Women in Planetary Science gathering. As I’m new to planetary science this conference is a great chance to get support and inspiration on things like how to get data, vocabulary, cool toys, and how to survive all the acronyms!

I will also be giving a poster presentation on Thursday evening about Maars on Earth and how we can look for Maars on Mars. Or as I like to call it “You Might Be a Martian Maar If…” You can read all the abstracts from the conference, they are two pages long and have graphs and references. There will even be some posters online (mine isn’t online yet because I found a whole bunch of typos just before printing).  With all of this online content and social media it is easy to enjoy some of the highlights of LPSC from anywhere. I’ve enjoyed watching twitter feeds of the conference in the past, but I suspect it will be much more awesome in person!

Askja's Viti crater, a maar formed on Earth. We can use Earth to help study other planets. By comparing their similarities and differences we then learn more about Earth!

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