Elizabeth Tasker is a researcher and science communicator at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo. Originally from the UK, Elizabeth read theoretical physics at Durham University before continuing to complete her doctorate in astrophysics at the University of Oxford. Her research explores the formation of stars and planets using computer simulations, and she built these virtual universes at institutes in the USA and Canada before moving to Japan. Elizabeth’s popular science book on planet formation, ‘The Planet Factory’ was published in 2017 (paperback: February 2019) and she also a writer for the NASA NExSS ‘Many Worlds’ online column.
Friday 8th February 2019: Session Two
Before the early 1990s, we only knew about the planets of our Solar System. Now we know of nearly 4000 worlds around other stars. These new discoveries have not been planets like our own. Instead, these are worlds of multiple suns, endless oceans, crusts of lava, lands of perpetual day and everlasting night and even rocks that could be formed from diamond. Let’s take a virtual walk on a few of the most alien worlds discovered and look ahead to what we might discover with our future exoplanet hunting instruments.
Landing on an asteroid: the Hayabusa2 mission
Saturday 9th February 2019: Session Three
In September last year, we landed on an asteroid for the first time in human history. Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at a near-Earth asteroid called Ryugu in June last year and deployed two rovers and a European-built lander to the asteroid surface that autumn. In a few weeks, the spacecraft will descend to the asteroid surface to collect a sample to return to Earth. It is exciting to visit a new world (albeit a small one) but space rocks like Ryugu may also hold the keys to how life started on our planet.