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British space community comes to Leicester for major conference

Nearly 200 leading space experts arrived in Leicester last week to take part in the British Planetary Science Conference 2024.

The high-profile event covered a range of the space community’s interests including meteorites, upcoming space missions, results from the James Webb Space Telescope and the recent OSIRIS Rex asteroid return mission and was held at the University of Leicester’s £100 million science and innovation park, Space Park Leicester, and the National Space Centre.

Other attractions at the fourth biennial conference included world class keynote speakers on the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer, new missions to Venus and Mars exploration, a great range of poster and oral presentations, a workshop on how to develop new space instruments and tours of the laboratories at Space Park Leicester.

Professor of Planetary Science John Bridges, of the University of Leicester and Space Park Leicester, said: “This was the largest British Planetary Science Conference to date and the biggest event we’ve ever held at Space Park Leicester.

“The workshop on developing new space exploration instruments was a huge success and there were lots of opportunities for attendees to learn about new methods for getting ideas into space and tapping into the expertise of Space Park Leicester’s engineers.

“It was incredible to hear so many world class speakers sharing their expertise on topics such as new Venus science, the BepiColombo mission to Mercury, ancient Mars, the 30-year pursuit to uncover Uranus’ infrared aurorae, insights from the Winchcombe meteorite, Jupiter’s jet streams and Saturn’s autumn images.

“The wealth of knowledge and advice on offer at the conference was extraordinary and has further strengthened the vibrancy of our innovative British space community.”

Pierre Etienne-Martin, PhD ​Candidate, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, was among the attendees at this year’s conference.

He said: “The posters and presentations covered a wide range of planetary science from chondrite mineralogy to Venus’s unknown surface, which fostered engaging discussions and valuable networking opportunities.

“Exploring the National Space Centre after sessions was also a lot of fun.”

Poster presentations at BPSC 2024

Fellow attendee Madeleine Stentiford, an Undergraduate Master’s Student at the University of Leicester, said: “I found the experience to be fantastic – a wonderful introduction to planetary conferences and conferences in general.”

Dr Jenifer Millard, Managing Editor at Fifth Star Labs, added: “I attended BPSC2024 not as a planetary scientist, but as an astronomer and science communicator, hoping to be inspired and learn beyond my field of expertise.

“I’m delighted to say I was not disappointed by the event Space Park Leicester enabled. It was a fantastic few days of learning in a wonderful, encouraging and most importantly safe environment.”

The conference was supported by the UK Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Europlanet Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

A gallery of event images can be found here: