Space Research & Planetary Sciences (WP)

Senior Staff

Christoph Mordasini

Leader Research Group "PlanetsInTime"

Space Research and Planetary Sciences Division

Physikalisches Institut

University of Bern

Gesellschaftsstrasse 6

CH-3012 Bern





My research interests are situated at the interface of the theory and observation of planets, both in the solar system as well as around other stars. This includes:

  • the statistical comparison of theory and observation via global models and the planetary population synthesis method
  • the accretion of gas and solids during the planet formation epoch
  • the thermodynamical and compositional evolution of planets from their origins to present day
  • the observational detection and characterization of extrasolar planets via the radial velocity and direct imaging technique
  • the formation and evolution of Jupiter 
  • the orbital migration of protoplanets and the evolution of protoplanetary disks
Output of the Generation III Bern model (Emsenhuber, Mordasini et al. 2021) of planetary formation and evolution. The animation shows the formation and evolution of 978 synthetic planetary systems around solar-like stars in the plane of orbital distance from the star (x-axis, in Astronomical Units AU) and planetary mass (y-axis, in Earth masses). There are initially 100 lunar-mass planetary seeds in each disk, each shown by a dot. The colors of the dots show the planetary bulk composition (green=iron+silicates, blue=with ice, red=more than 50% hydrogen+helium in mass). The black horizontal lines extend from the periastron to the apoastron, showing the eccentricity of the planets. The planets of the solar system are also shown with black crosses. Gray dots show protoplanets that were lost along the formation process through collisions, ejections, or by falling into the host star. One sees how planets grow, migrate inwards, and interact gravitationally.

Complete list of referred publications:

Link to NASA ADS with C. Mordasini in the author search field

(in new window, takes a moment to load)

Selected publications

Emsenhuber, A., Mordasini, C., Burn, R., et al. 2021 (in rev.) The New Generation Planetary Population Synthesis (NGPPS). I. Bern global model of planet formation and evolution, model tests, and emerging planetary systems

Emsenhuber, A., Mordasini, C., Burn, R., et al. 2021 (in rev.) The New Generation Planetary Population Synthesis (NGPPS). II. Planetary population of solar-like stars and overview of statistical results

Schlecker, M., Mordasini, C., Emsenhuber, A., et al. 2021 (accepted) The New Generation Planetary Population Synthesis (NGPPS). III. Warm super-Earths and cold Jupiters: A weak occurrence correlation, but with a strong architecture-composition link

Mordasini, C. 2020, A&A 638, A52  Planetary evolution with atmospheric photoevaporation I. Analytical derivation and numerical study of  the evaporation valley and transition from super-Earths to sub-Neptunes

Marleau, G.-D., Mordasini, C., Kuiper, R.  2019, ApJ, 881, 14 The Planetary Accretion Shock. II. Grid of Postshock Entropies and Radiative Shock Efficiencies for Nonequilibrium Radiation Transport

Mulders, G.-D., Mordasini, C., Pascucci, I., et al.  2019, ApJ, 887, 157 The Exoplanet Population Observation Simulator. II. Population Synthesis in the Era of Kepler

Manara, C.-F., Mordasini, C., Testi, L., et al.  2019, A&A, 631, L2 Constraining disk evolution prescriptions of planet population synthesis models with observed disk masses and accretion rates

Marleau, G.-D., Coleman, G.A.L., Leleu, A., Mordasini C. 2019, A&A, 624, A20 Exploring the formation by core accretion and the luminosity evolution of directly imaged planets. The case of HIP 65426 b

Linder, E. F., Mordasini, C. Molliere, P., et al.  2019, A&A, 623, A85 Evolutionary models of cold and low-mass planets: cooling curves, magnitudes, and detectability

Jin, S. & Mordasini, C. 2018, ApJ, 853, 163 Compositional Imprints in Density-Distance-Time: A Rocky Composition for Close-in Low-mass Exoplanets from the Location of the Valley of Evaporation

Mordasini, C. 2018 Handbook of Exoplanets, Eds. Juan Antonio Belmonte and Hans Deeg, Springer Planetary Population Synthesis

Marleau, G.-D., Klahr, H., Kuiper, R., Mordasini C.  2017, A&A, 836, 221 The Planetary Accretion Shock. I. Framework for Radiation-hydrodynamical Simulations and First Results

Szulagyi, E. & Mordasini, C. 2017, MNRAS, 465, L64  Thermodynamics of giant planet formation: shocking hot surfaces on circumplanetary disks

Mordasini, C., Marleau, G.-D., Molliere, P. 2017, A&A, 608, A72 Characterization of exoplanets from their formation. III. The statistics of planetary luminosities

Mordasini, C., van Boekel, R., Mollière, P., Henning, T., Benneke, B. 2016, ApJ, 832, 41 The imprint of exoplanet formation history on observable present-day spectra of hot Jupiters

Linder, E. F. & Mordasini, C. 2016, A&A 589, A134 Evolution and magnitudes of candidate Planet Nine

Baruteau, C., Bai, X., Mordasini, C., Molliere P. 2016, Space Sciene Reviews, 205, 77 Formation, Orbital and Internal Evolutions of Young Planetary Systems

Mordasini, C., Mollière, P., Dittkrist, K.-M., Jin, S., Alibert, Y. 2015, International Journal of Astrobiology, 14, 201 Global Models of Planet Formation and Evolution

Mordasini, C. 2014, A&A 572, A118  An analytical model for the grain opacity in protoplanetary atmospheres

Mordasini, C., Klahr, H., Alibert, Y., Miller, N. & Henning, T. 2014, A&A 566, A141 Grain opacity and the bulk composition of extrasolar planets. I. Results from scaling the ISM opacity

Mordasini, C., 2013, A&A 558, A113 Luminosity of young Jupiters revisited. Massive cores make hot planets

Fortney, J., Mordasini, C. , Nettelmann, N., Kempton, E., Greene, T. & Zahnle, K. 2013 ApJ  775, 80 A Framework for Characterizing the Atmospheres of Low-mass Low-density Transiting Planets

Mordasini, C., Alibert, Y., Georgy, C., Dittkrist, K.-M., Klahr, H. & Henning, T. 2012c,  A&A 547, A112 Characterization of exoplanets from their formation. II. The planetary mass-radius relationship 

Mordasini, C. , Alibert, Y., Klahr, H. & Henning, T. 2012b, A&A 547, A111 Characterization of exoplanets from their formation. I. Models of combined planet formation and evolution 

Mollière, P. & Mordasini, C. 2012,  A&A 547, A105 Deuterium burning in objects forming via the core accretion scenario. Brown dwarfs or planets? 

Mordasini, C., Alibert, Y., Benz, W., Klahr, H. & Henning, T. 2012a, A&A 541, A111 Extrasolar planet population synthesis. IV. Correlations with disk metallicity, mass, and lifetime 

Mordasini, C., Mayor, M., Udry, S., Lovis, C. et al. A&A 526, A111 The HARPS search for southern extra-solar planets. XXIV. Companions to HD 85390, HD 90156, and HD 103197: a Neptune analog and two intermediate-mass planets 

Mordasini, C., Alibert, Y., Benz, W., & Naef, D. 2009b,  A&A 501, 1161 Extrasolar planet population synthesis. II. Statistical comparison with observations

Mordasini, C., Alibert, Y. & Benz, W. 2009a,  A&A 501, 1139 Extrasolar planet population synthesis. I. Method, formation tracks, and mass-distance distribution 

Mordasini, C., Alibert, Y. & Benz, W. 2006,  Tenth Anniversary of 51 Peg-b: Status of and prospects for hot Jupiter studies Destruction of planetesimals in protoplanetry atmospheres

Alibert, Y., Mordasini, C., Benz, W. & Winisdoerffer, C. 2005, A&A 434, 343 Models of giant planet formation with migration and disc evolution


  • 2013 Habilitation and venia docendi, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2008 PhD in physics, University of Bern, Switzerland. Summa cum laude
  • 2004 Undergraduate studies in physics, University of Bern. Summa cum laude, Fakultätspreis

Academic Appointments

  • 2020 Dozent I, leader research group PlanetsInTime, University of Bern
  • 2015 SNSF Starting grant, University of Bern
  • 2013 Reimar-Lüst Fellowship of the Max Planck Society, MPIA Heidelberg
  • 2010 Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, MPIA Heidelberg
  • 2008 Postdoctoral Fellow. Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany

Involvement in space missions and instrumentation

  • HARPS: science team member (>100 observing nights with HARPS)
  • NIRPS spectrograph: core science team member
  • HIRES@ELT: consortium member, leader work package light distribution point
  • SPHERE and SPHERE+: consortium member, direct imaging instrument at the VLT
  • PFI Planetary Formation Imager: leader workging group "Planetary system architecture"
  • PLATO transit satellite: consortium member, leader work package "Statistical comparison with theory"

Lectures at the University of Bern 

Herbstsemester 2019-2020: Physik I für Pharmazie (with Prof. N. Thomas). Large introductory service lecture with many live experiments

Herbstsemester 2015-2018: Physik I (with Prof. W. Benz und Prof. N. Thomas). Large introductory lecture with many live experiments

 Herbstsemester 2015-2018: Planetenphysik (with PD. Dr. A. Pommerol) 

Herbstsemester 2015-2018: Crash Course in Mathematics

Lectures at the University of Heidelberg (2011-2015):  Theory of protoplanetary disks and planet formation. Numerical methods.

Press releases

Interviews and news articles

  • TV interviews for the Swiss National TV for SRF Tagesschau (main daily news program, 2016) and MTW (science show, 2007, 2008), German TV ARD, and Südwestrundfunk TV (in German)
  • Live radio interview in the Swiss National Radio RTS1 (CQFD, in French)
  • Interviews for articles by: Der Bund (Switzerland), NZZ (Switzerland), NZZ am Sonntag (Switzerland),Tagesanzeiger (Switzerland), 20 Minuten (Switzerland), Discovery Science Channel (UK), T-online (Germany), NASA Astrobiology Magazine (USA), RT Moscow (Russia)
  • Article of Linder & Mordasini (2016) on Candidate Planet 9 mentioned as research highlight in Nature (533, 149)
  • Scientific advisor “The quest for extrasolar worlds”, Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne (2016)
  • Demonstration of the CHEOPS model (CHaraterizing ExOPlanet Satellite) to the Swiss Federal Government 

Online talks and videos

Post Doctoral Positions

Currently no vacancies.

PhD Positions

Currently no vacancies. 

Bachelor and Master Theses

There are many projects available for bachelor and master students (see also ):

1. The dynamics of astroids during the formation of Jupiter

In the astroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, several types of astroids with similar orbits exist (Trojans, Greeks, Hildas, ..). In this bachelor thesis we study whether these dynamic groups form during the formation of Jupiter itself, namely at the moment when Jupiter rapidly accreted a large amount of hydrogen and helium gas to become a gas giant planet. For this, a sophisticated computer code is modified that numerically integrates the orbits of thousands of astroids under the gravitational influence of the forming Jupiter and the Sun. This not only yields a prediction about the resulting asteroid groups, but also about the enrichment of Jupiter in elements besides hydrogen and helium, because many asteroids collide with Jupiter enriching its atmosphere. These predictions are then compared with the observational data on the astroid families and Jupiter's composition. This will allow us to understand at which rate Jupiter accreted gas, and at which position this planet formed. 

An animation to this project can be found here (proto-Jupiter is at coordinates 5,0):

2. Flashes from extrasolar impacts

In this thesis we study the fate of large bodies (planetesimals, asteroids) that impact into the atmosphere of a forming extrasolar giant planet. We study how they loose their mass and energy while they fly into the denser parts of the gaseous envelope. This is similar to atmospheric impacts into Earth like the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 or the impact of comet Shoemaker Levy 9 into Jupiter in 1994. We then study how the planet itself reacts to this massive impact, including the possible formation of an impact plume (similar to an "Atompilz"). Finally we investigate whether these impact flashes could be detected from Earth. Dash cam videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor:

3. Formation of planets in massive infalling protoplanetary disks

When a star forms, not all infalling gas can directly fall onto the star because of angular momentum conservation. Instead it first falls onto a protoplanetary disk. During the main infall phase that forms the star, the mass of this disk can become so high that it becomes unstable to its own gravity. The disk then fragments into bound clumps of gas. In this batchelor thesis we investigate when such bound clumps can form and whether they are the progenitors of gaseous giant planets. We study this by simulating the formation and evolution of a disk with a numerical model. We then check when and where the simulated disk becomes unstable, and compare the resulting clumps with the observed extrasolar planets.

4. Comparison of the planetary population around M dwarf: theory vs observations

Stars with a mass clearly smaller than the Sun are called M dwarfs. These red stars outnumber solar-like stars by about a factor 10 in the local milky way. The population of planets around these stars is however still not well known. In this work we compare the properties of planets around M dwarfs (like their occurrence rate, their mass, their distance from the star etc.) as predicted by a theoretical model of planet formation with observations that have been obtained in the past few years by the NASA Kepler satellite. This allows to find out how well our theoretical model reproduces the observations, and where it has its shortcomings.