A Word from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our website!

As we are heading towards the first Sunday of Advent and the festive season, we could say that this fall has been good to us if it were not for the rising COVID-19 infection numbers of the past few weeks. We had two workshops and a forum – albeit as hybrid events – but with about half of the participants here at the institute while the others followed from remote. Our new audio-video system proofed extremely useful and made participation from remote the second best after being at the institute in person. A software update and recalibration had removed some “nervousness” of the cameras that were chasing speakers and refocusing just a bit too much. The audio continues to be superb. The workshops were the “Venus: Evolution Through Time” workshop in September coordinated by Colin Wilson and colleagues and the “Heliosphere in the Local Interstellar Medium” workshop coordinated by Andrei Bykov and Ruedi von Steiger in November. The latter workshop had the same title as the first ever workshop at ISSI and we were fortunate enough to have two of the participants from then participating in person this time as well. The science has evolved, but the subject continues to be of interest and relevance. The workshop was honoring Johannes Geiss, the founding father of ISSI and the coordinator of the first workshop. 

This past week we hosted a forum on “Ground and Space Based Astronomy” that Álvaro Giménez and Joachim Wambsganss coordinated. Both have been hoping for having the forum fully in person in Bern but after postponing several times, they finally agreed that a hybrid forum was better than postponing once again. For Joachim, the event marked an endpoint of his service as an ISSI director as he had left end of September after four years of service. The ISSI directorate and staff had thanked and congratulated him during the first combined directorate and staff meeting that month and wished him all the best for the future. Negotiations with a successor to Joachim are ongoing now.

In addition to the two workshops and the forum, we saw ten teams meet at the institute and expect four more to come in December. Moreover, two working groups “Extant subsurface Life on Mars? Science, Tools & Missions Together” and “Towards a Universal Tracers Portal in Astrobiology” kicked-off their activities through two online meetings over several days. The first of the two is a joint effort by ISSI, ISSI Beijing and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research CIFAR. 

The Game Changer Seminar Series has been continuing successfully every Thursday at 17:00. As we do have a significant number of participants from the United States, we will pause this week for the Thanksgiving holiday and resume next week. Please see our website for the talks scheduled up to Christmas and for the recordings of the past seminars. We are planning the series resume in the new year when we will focus on an interdisciplinary subject with contributions from all fields of space sciences that ISSI covers.

Finally, let me report briefly on the ISSI yearly dinner that was held at the Hotel Bellevue Palace with 104 guests present including many of the participants of the Heliosphere workshop. The highlight of the evening was a lecture by Nobel laureate Michel Mayor on the continuing hunt for exoplanets and the search for traces of extraterrestrial life.

Let me close this letter by pointing to the Pro ISSI online talk this coming Wednesday at 18:15 on “A Warming Indian Ocean on Planet Earth: Changes in Ocean Circulation, Sea Level and Heat Content” by 2020 Johannes Geiss Fellow Weiqing Han of the University of Colorado.

On behalf of the institute, let me wish you and your loved ones a peaceful festive season! And, if you have not yet received your vaccination or your booster shot consider getting it as soon as possible thus helping to protect yourself and your fellow people.

All the best

Tilman Spohn