Way back in 2001, Allan Treiman decided to write a haiku.
Treiman was preparing an abstract for the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) about an instrument called the Alta II Spectrometer, which he and his colleagues thought could help students learn about light and remote sensing.
“I cannot remember what it was that inspired me to make a haiku,” Treiman, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, told Eos. It was “one of those random thoughts I assume most people get.”
Maybe it was to make his abstract pop out from the hundreds presented at LPSC, or maybe it was just for fun. Whatever his inspiration, he put fingers to keyboard. Out popped the very first LPSC haiku:
Bright leaves on dark sky
Beyond the brilliant rainbow
Vision fades away
A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem formed from 17 syllables and split up into three lines. The first line consists of five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and then the third line contains the final five syllables.
Nowadays, the LPSC program is chock-full of such poems—there’s even a best-in-show contest this year—but that wasn’t always the case. After Treiman’s haiku in 2001, the tradition didn’t catch on for a few years. In 2002 and 2003, there were only three haiku. In 2011, there were 10. After that, the tradition started to catch on, with 55 in 2014, 195 in 2016, and this year a whopping 221 haiku.
“I think of the haiku to be a sneak-peek, like a movie teaser, but not the whole trailer” for a presentation, said Caitlin Ahrens, a Ph.D. student at the University of Arkansas’s Center for Space and Planetary Sciences. “It puts in perspective how to explain your research using less words.”
Pluto glacier slides
Rippling from slow collision
It’s a young feature
Does it mix well with others?
To celebrate this delightful tradition, we’ve sifted through this year’s abstracts from LPSC, which will be held in The Woodlands, Texas, from 19 to 24 March. Below are some our favorites, paired with their abstract titles. If we missed any particularly spectacular ones, please let us know in the comments!
High-Resolution Topography of Pluto and Charon: Getting Down to Details
Pluto surface pitted
Nitrogen ice sheet deep or flat?
Vigorous and sublime.
By P. Schenk et al.
The Role of Tides in Forming the Tiger Stripe Fractures on Enceladus
Are tides the culprit, we ask
Maybe in thin ice.
By A. R. Rhoden et al.
Microbial Ecology of the Johnson Space Center Meteorite Curation Lab and Associated Infrastructure
Clean is not sterile
Fungi are overlooked
Life uh finds a way
By A. B. Regberg et al.
Discovery of Alunite in Candidate ExoMars Landing Site, Mawrth Vallis: Evidence for Localized Evaporative Environments
Alunite is found
By A. M. Sessa et al.
Noachian Intercrater Plains Bedrock Units Show Variable Olivine Enrichment
THEMIS spectra show
Olivine enrichments might
Not be volcanic
By J. C. Cowart and A. D. Rogers
Ice Caps Under Sand Caps Under an Ice Cap: Revealing a Record of Climate Change on Mars with SHARAD
Ice under sand under ice
Radar reveals it
By S. Nerozzi and J. W. Holt
Fault Rock Evolution of Large Thrust Systems on Mars
As thrusts on Mars grow
And offset accumulates
Wear on faults makes gouge
By Christian Klimczak et al.
Mapping Bennu with Sunlight and Lasers: The SPCOLA Methods
Two instrument suites
Two topographic techniques
Two ways to combine
By J. H. Roberts et al.
Ceres: Jawbreaker or Creamy Nougat Center?
Deep within Ceres
Mysteries still confound us
Is it mud or ice?
By S. D. King et al.
Convective Instability in Horizontal Decompaction Channels Inside Planetary Lithospheres
Melt gets stuck going up
Lithosphere porous layer
By J. Schools et al.
Thermal Moonquakes: Implications for Surface Properties
Sunrise and sunset
Cracking, creaking, and rumbling
The Moon never rests
By R. C. Weber et al.
Mars 2020 Cache Curation Protocol: Developing a Mars Regolith Analogue
Pick Mars regolith
Does it matter where we go?
Magic mixing starts
By L. C. Welzenbach et al.
Spectral Analysis of Lunar Cinder Cones in the Marius Hills Volcanic Complex
Glassy cinder cones
They can take three shapes or hide
By M. J. McBride et al
Topographic Degradation by Impact Cratering on Airless Bodies Is Dominated by Diffusive Erosion from Distal Ejecta
Gentle lunar seas
Far away the ground is struck
Craters melt away
By D. A. Minton et al.
We saved our favorite for last. After all, we’re just specks of dust tumbling in turbulent flow from one place in time to the next…
The Importance of Sand for Understanding Dune Processes and Surface Conditions of Titan
A handful of sand
Brought by wind from close and far
The world in a dune
By Jani Radebaugh et al.
—JoAnna Wendel (@JoAnnaScience), Staff Writer