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Emily LakdawallaMarch 13, 2015

If it's March, it must be LPSC

Next week is the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), a weeklong meeting held every March near Houston. It's the largest annual gathering of planetary geologists. It always delivers healthy servings of Moon, Mars, and meteorite science, plus whatever other worlds are currently in vogue in four or five concurrent oral sessions running a full week, plus huge poster sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. You can view the full program here.

This year, other worlds beyond the Moon, Mars, and meteorites with dedicated sessions include comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko; Mercury; Ceres; and Saturn's moons, while and Pluto and Venus each get a half of a session. The rest of the solar system is scattered here and there among thematic sessions on such topics as sand dunes, tectonics, and exobiology. There is one press briefing planned, for Monday, about MESSENGER results from Mercury.

LPSC has a conference culture all its own, with lots of terrible puns and in-jokes in session titles, and a long tradition of mini-abstracts being written as haiku. (My favorite session title this year: "Ceres and Dawn: Your Last Chance to Talk About Ceres Before Dawn Data Wreck Your Theories.") It is also, traditionally, a meeting featuring lots of student presentations, but this year that tradition is being stressed by the anomalously high cost of hotel rooms in the area. For me, attending LPSC in the north Houston suburb of The Woodlands is going to be more expensive than it was to go to the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco! If you enjoy my conference coverage and would like to help defray those costs, you can donate here.

For the third year, the conference is making a special wireless network available to a list of selected LPSC "microbloggers," who have promised to share results from the meeting via social media. I've collected them into a Twitter list here, and will likely add to it a few more unofficial microbloggers. You can also watch the conference hashtag, #LPSC2015.

I'm glad there will be others covering this meeting, because there are some horrendous conflicts among exciting topics this year. The worst of them is Monday morning, when there are simultaneous sessions on Rosetta and Philae results; Curiosity results from Pahrump Hills; the MESSENGER low-altitude Mercury campaign; and a lunar mission session. I have never attended an LPSC with a worse collision among newsworthy mission results. I am tearing my hair out. In general, it is fairly easy to run back and forth between ballrooms 4 and 5 and 5 and 6, while it takes longer to dash from any of these to ballroom 1 or the Montgomery ballroom. I think I have to see the Philae results, which are the first three talks in the Rosetta session, and then I will run to the Curiosity room for some geochemical results from Pahrump Hills. Finally, I'll shift to the Moon room to learn about new GRAIL results and attend the one Chang'e 3 talk. I won't neglect MESSENGER, though, because they'll have a press briefing at lunch time and an excellent poster session on Tuesday. Phew!

The rest of the choices are a little bit easier. I'll spend Monday afternoon attending talks on tectonics across the solar system. Monday evening is NASA night, when representatives from NASA talk about NASA programs and funding, to much audience snarking. On Tuesday morning, I'll go to the three Ceres talks that are based on Dawn's first images, and then spend the rest of the morning in the session on recent impact cratering on the Moon. In the afternoon I'll attend the Pluto session and then jump to talks on Titan organics and Curiosity SAM results, and then go to the Mars room to hear about some work on ancient Mars rivers, lakes, and glaciers. Then I'll get to attend a couple of hours of the poster session before rushing to the airport to head home!

Because I'm only able to attend two of the five days of the meeting, and because I cannot clone myself, I am going to miss a lot. As always, I welcome guest blog contributions from other attendees. Please contact me if you'd be willing to submit a guest blog.

Stay tuned for the latest planetary science news from Houston!

LPSC2015

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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