Busy week for Atmospheric Science Group

This one is being a busy week for Atmospheric Science Group, some of whose members are attending to two outstanding scientific events: the 23rd ESA Symposium on European Rocket & Balloon programmes and Related Research, and a meeting of the Planetary Protection Working Group.
On the ESA Symposium on European Rocket & Balloon programmes and Related Research, which is taking place in Visby, Sweden, Professor María Paz Zorzano is presenting the Particle Counter K-index Magnetic ANomaly (PACKMAN) instrument, which has been being developed during the last months and is now in the field-site tests stage. PACKMAN is a device intended to monitor the amount of Alpha, beta and gamma radiation, as well as the muons reaching the control point. It is a robust and cheap instrument conceived to get a continuous flux of data, which is delivered by means of the communication system it is provided with. It is designed in two configurations for two different allocations: PACKMAN-E, which will be installed on the surface and is expected to eventually constitute a network of monitoring points to gather a significant set of data for a given area (initially the polar regions), and PACKMAN-B which is thought to be mounted on board balloons to take measurements from the upper levels of the atmosphere.
Both versions mount environmental sensors to gather ancillary information of pressure, temperature and relative humidity, together with magnetic perturbation, which will provide a frame for the analysis of the radiation data gathered. The joint analysis of the data with relation to those recorded by means of satellites such as GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) network, will provide new insights for the better comprehension of the atmospheric physics and chemistry.

One of the two PACKMAN prototypes
currently used for the field-site testing
Credit: Juan Francisco Buenestado

PACKMAN instrument comes to alleviate the scarcity of Earth surface radiation monitors and the derived lack of information about the amount, type, and energy of the radiation which reaches the Earth, as well as its time variability and geographic distribution. By doing so, it will be possible to improve the knowledge about the influence of the so called “space weather” in the Earth atmosphere.
The second event consists of the exposition of a summary of the report that Professor Martín-Torres and Professor María Paz Zorzano were requested to elaborate by the European Space Foundation on the habitability conditions of the pre-selected landing sites for ExoMars 2020 mission. They will present their work, focused on the particular environmental expected conditions at Oxia Planum (the other possibility is Mawrth Vallis), during the ESA’s Planetary Protection Working Group Meeting, to be held in Helsinki on June 15th.

Professor Zorzano presenting PACKMAN
Credit: Javier Martín-Torres