Interests and Methods

The planetary remote-sensing (imaging) group at the University of Bern focusses on the physics of dynamic phenomena at the surfaces of solar system bodies and particularly those where ices and volatile species are of importance.

Our emphasis is on acquiring observations of solar system bodies over a range of wavelengths (from near-UV through the optical to the near-IR) and then modelling (both numerically and in the laboratory) to establish the nature of the physical processes responsible. The group approaches this task by exploring objects through a complete project life-cycle comprising conceptual design, experiment implementation, laboratory support, data analysis, and modelling.

The objects of interest to us at the moment are 

  • Mars (supporting our involvement in HiRISE and CaSSIS)
  • Comets and small bodies (supporting our involvement in OSIRIS)
  • Mercury (supporting our involvement in BELA)
  • The Jupiter system (supporting our involvement in JUICE, Europa Clipper, and the IVO proposal).

The methods we use and the approach is shown schematically below.

We have divided our activities into sub-projects (and we've named them). You can find more information on them in our group science pages.

Education and Positions

Mar 2003-present: Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Professor of Experimental Physics

Oct 1992-Feb 2003: Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie (MPAe)           Staff position.

Jul 1991-Aug 1992: Space Science Department /SI, ESTEC, ESA post-doctoral research fellowship.

Sep 1986-Jun 1991: Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie (MPAe) Post-doctoral research grant from the Max-Planck- Gesellschaft to work on analysis of data returned by the Halley Multicolour Camera (HMC) on board ESA's spacecraft, Giotto.

Oct 1982-Apr 1986: University of York. DPhil. in the Dept. of Physics.  Thesis entitled "Studies of the Jovian satellite, Io." 

Oct 1981-Sep 1982: University of Leicester. MSc. in "Experimental Space Physics" in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy.

Sep 1978-Jul 1981: The Polytechnic, Wolverhampton BSc. (Hons.) in "Combined Studies".


July 1986: K.M. Stott prize for physics (for the best physics thesis at the University of York in 1986).

July 1992: Joint Russian Academy of Sciences-Space Research Institute/COSPAR Zel'dovich Award for Commission B (Space Studies of the Earth-Moon System, Planets and Small Bodies of the Solar System) in recognition of contributions to planetary and cometary science, in particular the analysis of the Giotto HMC images of Comet Halley.

1997 – present: Various NASA Group Achievement Awards

(Co-)Investigator positions

Principal Investigator for the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) for the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Principal Investigator for the Microscope on the Beagle 2 lander package for the European Space Agency’s Mars Express (Lead Scientist: Colin Pillinger).

Co-Principal Investigator for the BepiColombo Laser Altimeter experiment for the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury (Co-PI: Tilman Spohn)

Co-Investigator for GALA (Ganymede Laser Altimeter) for the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission to Ganymede (PI: Hauke Hussmann)

Co-Investigator for HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter  (PI: Alfred McEwen)

Co-Investigator for OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) on Rosetta (PI: H. Sierks)

Deep Space One Science Team member (Lead Scientist: R. Nelson)

Co-Investigator for D-CIXS (Compact imaging X-ray fluorescence spectrometer) on ESA’s SMART 1 mission to the Moon (PI: M. Grande)

Co-Investigator for SIR (Smart 1 infra-red spectrometer experiment) on ESA’s SMART 1 (TI: H.U. Keller)

Co-Investigator for VMC (Venus Monitoring Camera) on ESA’s Venus Express mission (PI: W. Markiewicz)

Co-Investigator for RSI (Radio Science Investigation) analysis of radio signal from Rosetta (PI: M. Pätzold)

Co-Investigator for DISR (Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer) imager on Huygens probe to Titan (PI: M. Tomasko)

Other positions of interest:

Leader of the Atmospheric Imaging Research Science Operations Group for Mars Pathfinder.

Science advisory group member for ESA’s Mercury Orbiter (BepiColombo) cornerstone, 1996-2003.

Science consultant for ESA’s Exobiology package programme, 1997-9.

International Jupiter Watch Io Plasma Torus Discipline Leader, 1993-1996.

Vice-chairman of COSPAR commission B1 “Small bodies in the Solar System” 1994-1998.

Chairman of COSPAR commission B1 “Small bodies in the Solar System” 1998-2002.

Vice-chairman of COSPAR commission B “Solar System” 2004-2012.

Chairman of SSWG and member of Space Science Advisory Committee (July 2005-December 2009)

Elected Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics (June 2007)

Member of the Scientific Board of the International Space Sciences Institute (ISSI) 2003-2006.

Chairman of the PRO-ISSI association (

Member of the ISSI Board of Trustees (2011-present)

Asteroid 13699

Not such an interesting object...

ISSI Dinner Lecture

Gave a talk at the famous ISSI Dinner in November 2010 at the Bellevue Palace Hotel in Bern about The Spiders from Mars and so yes I used Ziggy Stardust as an intro. But what sort of made it an evening was the make-up. Yes, I gave a talk to Director of Science of ESA made up like Aladdin Sane. The Profette was the make-up artist. The talk slides (without the animations unfortunately) will be put up here.

You can see the full talk on You Tube here:

The Spiders from Mars - Part I

The Spiders from Mars - Part II

The Spiders from Mars - Part III


Planetary Physics (part 1) 14 hours Autumn 2006-2015 (inc.)

Physik I (part 2; thermodynamik) 28 hours Autumn 2006-2015 (inc.)

The Planet, Mars 28 hours Autumn 2003, Autumn 2005, Autumn 2011

The Saturn System 28 hours Autumn 2004

Physics of Solid Bodies 28 hours Spring 2008

14 April 2016 - CaSSIS takes first pictures of stars

The first switch-on of CaSSIS was successful.

9 March 2016

Berner Zeitung


Der Bund

20 Minuten

10 February 2016 - Podcast

PodCast about Mars and CaSSIS.



CaSSIS Leaves for Cannes



Der Bund

Berner Zeitung



Mars Daily

Television Work

Euronews update on 67P (26 March 2015)

Euronews report on our IceLab.

Radio Stuff


Interview on SRF1 3 March 2015



ScienceFriday for National Public Radio:

Quirks and Quarks (CBC): 

Articles in the Press

Rosetta/OSIRIS - Ramy's paper on cracks



Article in Le Figaro about Luju's paper in Nature about RSL

.... and in the NZZ

Rosetta/OSIRIS - Release of Science paper

Le Monde:

New York Times: 

Le Temps: Not public

Hamburger Abendblatt:

Possible detection of water on Mars in Newton Basin - Release of Nature Paper

HiRISE sand dunes Science paper public relations

HiRISE stuff in New Scientist

HiSCI Selection

Baseler Zeitung:  

Der Bund:  

Web Materials

Our paper as a science nugget