Surface of a rocky celestial body in false colors in a map projection with a grid overlay and annotated with latitudinal coordinates

Planetary Surfaces

The chemistry, mineralogy, and geology of a planetary surface bears testimony to its formation, evolution and internal structure.

This in turn provides essential information for understanding planet formation and the distinct evolutionary paths of individual objects, in particular for those from which there is no sample material on Earth. The “Planetary Surfaces” group uses spacecraft-based remote sensing and in-situ measurements to investigate the surface chemistry, mineralogy, and geology of a variety of planets, asteroids, and comets. To this end current research has been mainly focused on the dwarf planet Ceres, asteroid Vesta, and comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which where visited by NASA’s Dawn mission and ESA’s Rosetta mission respectively. In addition, the research group is involved in ESA’s missions BepiColombo, which will reach Mercury in 2025, ExoMars, whose lander is scheduled to touch down on Mars in 2028, and EnVision, which will head for Venus starting in 2031.


Portrait of Valentin Bickel

IMPRS alumn Valentin Bickel is awarded the Silver Medal of ETH Zurich for his outstanding Doctoral Thesis on the Analysis of Lunar Rockfalls more

Dwarf planet Ceres: organic chemistry and salt deposits in Urvara impact crater

Data from NASA's Dawn mission, analyzed for the first time, suggest that brine rose from the depths and organic compounds were deposited in Urvara crater. more

A New Encounter with Rosetta’s Comet

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has reached its closest point to the Sun for the first time since the end of the Rosetta mission and is currently very close to Earth. In this interview, MPS scientists Dr. Holger Sierks and Dr. Carsten Güttler talk about a return to the Rosetta comet, comet simulations in the lab and calibrating 70,000 images. more

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