Welcome on-board the blog of the PS division of the EGU !
You may not be familiar with the PS division and what it is about, so I’ll give you a tour.
Most of the EGU divisions look towards the Earth, whether it is deep down the interior or right at the surface. Some look up to the atmosphere and the climate. Finally, there are two which look way up: PS and the Solar Terrestrial Sciences division (ST).
PS stands for Planetary and Solar System Sciences and it does what’s written on the tin: it is all about planetary science. But what is planetary science you might ask?
Planetary scientists are interested in objects in the Solar System like giant planets such as Jupiter, not-so-big planets like Earth and even dwarf planets like Pluto! They are also interested in smaller objects like asteroids and comets. Because going to space is quite harder than their daily commute, planetary scientists usually observe these objects using Earth-based telescopes and sometimes send robots and probes to explore on their behalf. Some of those robots land on celestial bodies like the rover Curiosity did on Mars or the Philae lander on comet 67P. There they take pictures, dig holes and fire lasers at rocks. Just like any other tourist would do…
Planetary scientists also like to look back in time and investigate how planets form and evolve with particular focus on cases like early-Venus, early-Mars or early-Earth. The question of the “before” brings some of them to look in detail at asteroids and comets as they contain pristine material that hasn’t changed much since the formation of the solar system. A bit like those comics that are very precious because they are still in their original packaging…
Life is also studied: where does it come from? And if it is a reproducible mechanism: has it appeared somewhere else? The hunt for extraterrestrial life (present or past) is primarily focussed on Mars but the search is now extending to icy moons in the outer solar system that are thought to harbour liquid water oceans (like Europa around Jupiter and Enceladus around Saturn). This question gave birth to a sub-field of planetary science, between physics, chemistry and biology, called astrobiology.
But space goes beyond the Solar System and we love space rocks so much, we started looking even further. In 1995 a planet was discovered around the Sun-like star 51 Pegasi. This was the first of the so-called exoplanets. At first exoplanets were mostly studied by astronomers. But planetary scientists also wanted to characterize them and came into the game, starting a new kind of planetary science, namely exoplanetary science. What is their mass, do they have an atmosphere, if so of what kind, and more importantly: could they have liquid water on the surface so that they could harbour life?
In this blog we will cover recent advances in planetary science and present research from early career scientists (ECS) across the division. We also aim to bring the PS community together by sharing events and tips that can be of interest to researchers, ECS or not.
But the blog is not the only way you can keep up to date with the division: we’re also on social media so you can follow us on Twitter (@EGU_PS) and on Facebook (EGUPSDivision). There we also share job offers, so have a look!
If you still want to know more about what being a planetary scientist is like, check out this blog in the coming months for some posts from people sharing their experience about their work in planetary science. If you want to share your experience or some research highlight, contributions in the form of guest posts are welcomed!