National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS
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The Observer

04 Nov 2019
NCCR PlanetS director Willy Benz with a CHEOPS mock-up. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, On October 8, our colleagues…
04 Nov 2019
Professors Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz are awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of the first…
04 Nov 2019
PostsController@cheopschildrendrawings
04 Nov 2019
By Martin C.E. Huber "A neat example again how a new window to the universe opens up through improved measuring…
04 Nov 2019
About 1700 astronomers attended the planetology congress from 15th to 20th September organized jointly by the Europeans of the EPSC…
04 Nov 2019
From the 9th to the 11th of September 2019, 31 young researchers from Bern, Geneva, and Zürich gathered at the…
04 Nov 2019
What name would you give to an exoplanet and its star several tens of light years away? To celebrate its…
04 Nov 2019
50 years of Mars exploration - public lecture in French Fifty years ago, exploration of Mars using robotic space probes…
04 Nov 2019
Exhibition in Winterthur Parts of the space telescope CHEOPS. (Photo: Guido Schwarz) From 10 November 2019 to 15 March 2020,…
24 Jun 2019
Professor Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, President Kennedy in his famous speech…
24 Jun 2019
When Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the lunar module on 21 July 1969, the first thing he did was to…
24 Jun 2019
From the Bernese solar-wind experiment on Apollo 11 to space research in Switzerland as a member of the European Space…
24 Jun 2019
The astronomer Monika Lendl has won the Look! business award for the Austrian woman of the year in STEM (Science,…
24 Jun 2019
Sascha Quanz was appointed the new professor of Exoplanets and Habitability at ETH Zurich on 1 June 2019. "I'm delighted that…
24 Jun 2019
Two years ago, the Icelandic company CCP, which markets and operates the EveOnline galactic conquest game, launched the "project discovery",…
24 Jun 2019
The NCCR PlanetS has been participating to several public events since its creation. Amongst them, there is one which has…
24 Jun 2019
Recently, PlanetS researchers published papers about stolen comets, a forbidden planet, meteorites from Vesta, and Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere…
13 Mar 2019
Dear Readers, Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Time flies! When you receive this edition…
13 Mar 2019
Xavier Barcons is Director General of the European Southern Observatory ESO. Last week he travelled to Switzerland for the ESO…
13 Mar 2019
The NCCR PlanetS is now in its second four-year-long phase. 122 members and associates gathered at the end of January…
13 Mar 2019
After being able to measure the masses and the diameters of exoplanets, using the information to deduce what materials they…
13 Mar 2019
Emeline Bolmont has just been appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Geneva, a position…
13 Mar 2019
To find out how planets form, astrophysicists run complicated and time consuming computer calculations. Members of the NCCR PlanetS in…
13 Mar 2019
Astronomers have discovered a large number of rocky planets outside our solar system. Among them there are many exotic objects…
13 Mar 2019
For the fifth time already, the public and free science slam "Astronomy on Tap" took place at “ONO Kulturlokal” in…
13 Mar 2019
In the anniversary year of the moon landing of Apollo 11 there are exciting things to discover. The University of…
25 Oct 2018
Dear Reader, Professor Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Image Alessandro Della Bella) Yes! BepiColombo started on October 20…
25 Oct 2018
BepiColombo blasted off to investigate Mercury. Nicolas Thomas, Co-Principal Investigator of the instrument BELA and Director of the Physics Institute…
25 Oct 2018
The smallest planet in our Solar System has a large iron core. How come? According to the most popular theory,…
25 Oct 2018
After a long tour through Europe, the CHEOPS satellite is back at Airbus Defence and Space Spain in Madrid. On…
25 Oct 2018
When astrophysicists of the NCCR PlanetS at the University of Zürich analyzed their computer simulations they were amazed: The formation…
25 Oct 2018
Since 28 March 2018, the ETH Museum focusTerra in Zurich has hosted the exhibition "Expedition Solar System - Join ETH…
25 Oct 2018
By Thibaut Roger If you have ever read a press article about exoplanets, you certainly have already seen a nice…
25 Oct 2018
By Timm Riesen Mountains are impregnable The Matthorn during a thunderstorm from E. Whymper: The Ascent of the Matterhorn (S.…
25 Oct 2018
It was a year ago when in November the « Elargis Tes Horizons » Foundation organized with the University of Geneva a…
12 Jul 2018
Dear Reader, Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Transition - a word one hears often…
12 Jul 2018
Together with the CHEOPS space telescope 2748 miniaturized drawings will fly into space in the first half of 2019. The…
12 Jul 2018
The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 has reached the asteroid Ryugu. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon in Japanese, Ryugu is the name…
12 Jul 2018
The Workshop Mechanical workshop of the astronomy department of the University of Geneva: It is in this workshop that some of…
12 Jul 2018
TRAPPIST-1 is the name of the star around which seven planets and many current research projects revolve. Cool dwarf stars…
12 Jul 2018
From astounding images of Mars and cosmic ravioli near Saturn to distant worlds that might look similar or very different…
12 Jul 2018
Tackling humanity’s biggest challenges with Artificial Intelligence: Uni Bern scientist at NASA’s Frontier Development Lab The NASA FDL Astrobiology team…
12 Jul 2018
Antoine Pommerol, researcher at the University of Berne, introduces the Bernese camera CaSSIS orbiting Mars on the ESA probe ExoMars.…
05 Apr 2018
Dear Reader, NCCR PlanetS director Willy Benz with a CHEOPS mock-up. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) In October 2012, CHEOPS was…
05 Apr 2018
Construction of the space telescope CHEOPS is finished. The engineers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the…
05 Apr 2018
Christopher Broeg is project manager of the CHEOPS mission. A consortium of more than 100 scientists and engineers in eleven…
05 Apr 2018
NASA plans to launch a new exoplanet satellite called TESS on 16 April 2018. It is expected to discover thousands…
05 Apr 2018
Christophe Lovis, a member of NCCR PlanetS at the University of Geneva, received the "La Recherche" prize at the beginning…
05 Apr 2018
On 28 March 2018, the exhibition "Expedition Sonnensystem – Mit der ETH auf Forschungsreise durchs All" opened to the public…
05 Apr 2018
Ulrike Kastrup, head of focusTerra, talks about the exhibition "Expedition Sonnensystem" at the ETH museum in Zurich and why she…
05 Apr 2018
Worldwide Science Slam series «Astronomy on Tap» lands in Bern If talking about astronomy and space science over drinks in…
05 Apr 2018
The participants of the water workshop in Zürich. (Photo UniZH) This last February the workshop 'Water during planet formation and…
07 Dec 2017
Professor Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, In this edition of the Observer,…
07 Dec 2017
The new ultra-high resolution spectrograph developed by a consortium led by Francesco Pepe professor at the Department of Astronomy of…
07 Dec 2017
The Council of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has elected Willy Benz, Professor at the University of Bern, as its…
07 Dec 2017
The Swiss 20 franc note. (Image SNF) There is a good chance that you are carrying 51 Pegasi around with…
07 Dec 2017
What do the images of Mars, Comet Chury or other celestial bodies really show? For a reliable answer researchers at…
07 Dec 2017
Planetary formation starts with small dust grains in disks surrounding young stars. But dust growth is hindered by collisional fragmentation…
07 Dec 2017
Meteorites contain far less chlorine, bromine and iodine than previously thought. This was the finding from new measurements carried out…
07 Dec 2017
Engineers at the University of Bern are developing the CHEOPS space telescope. From Earth´s orbit, this telescope is supposed to…
07 Dec 2017
The size of the fairing sticker will be 1 x 1 m. (Image ESA) Are you a student of graphic…
07 Dec 2017
On September 15, 2017, the Cassini probe completed its last orbit around Saturn before diving into its atmosphere. A touching…
27 Sep 2017
Professor Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, As you will read in this…
27 Sep 2017
The airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) observed a mini-eclipse of the extrasolar planet GJ 1214b. The goal was…
27 Sep 2017
Our campaign to collect CHEOPS children drawings is completing a major milestone as the first plaques have been engraved. The…
27 Sep 2017
According to theory, the moon was created during a gigantic collision between the earth and another celestial body called Theia.…
27 Sep 2017
The Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) was built at the University of Bern. As part of ESA’s Trace…
27 Sep 2017
After almost 10 years of studies, construction, problems, efforts and sleepless nights, the ESPRESSO spectrograph left at the end of…
27 Sep 2017
The astronomer Willy Benz is the first Swiss to lead a space mission. At the end of 2018, the CHEOPS…
27 Sep 2017
The characterization of habitable or even inhabited exoplanets is one of the ultimate goals of modern astrophysics. Reviving the concept…
27 Sep 2017
From a historic Zenit rocket and the famous Apollo solar wind experiment to the Mars camera CaSSIS and the CHEOPS…
27 Sep 2017
Ewine van Dishoeck is President-elect of International Astronomical Union (IAU). (Image IAU) «Building stars, planets and the ingredients for life in…
14 Jun 2017
Professor Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, In a previous writing, I have…
14 Jun 2017
The Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern (CSH), the University of Geneva (UNIGE), and their partners…
14 Jun 2017
After the engineers at the University of Bern integrated and tested models of the CHEOPS space telescope, they are now…
14 Jun 2017
With his bright red colored hair Konstantin Batygin looks more like a rock musician than an astrophysicist. In fact, he…
14 Jun 2017
SPIRou is a near infra red instrument mainly designed to detect exoplanets by measuring radial velocities of M dwarf stars…
14 Jun 2017
Ravit Helled is professor at the University of Zürich and Leader of the Academic Platform at the NCCR PlanetS. Find…
14 Jun 2017
The European astronauts together with Professor Michel Mayor (middle). (Photo University of Geneva) There are only 550 in the world…
14 Jun 2017
Can you touch the planets? Why can you jump so high on the moon? Ben Moore, together with his wife…
14 Jun 2017
Member of PlanetS presented planetary science at Fantasy Basel. (Photos PlanetS) They were more than 40,000 fanatics of Star Wars,…
22 Mar 2017
Willy Benz, Director of NCCR PlanetS, with a model of the space telescope CHEOPS. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, „Basic…
22 Mar 2017
The discovery of seven earth-like planets around an ultracool star made headlines worldwide. How does the so called TRAPPIST-1 system…
22 Mar 2017
Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is complete. It still has to undergo a battery of tests before…
22 Mar 2017
As NASA’s new science director, Thomas Zurbuchen announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets around the nearby star TRAPPIST-1 at…
22 Mar 2017
Just as you can tell where your friend spent his holidays based on the tan of his skin, scientists can…
22 Mar 2017
The American business magazine Forbes is famous for its annual ranking lists of young influential people in different categories. Among…
22 Mar 2017
In the next months, engineers at the University of Bern will assemble the CHEOPS space telescope integrating parts arriving from…
22 Mar 2017
Kevin Heng, Director of the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) of the University of Bern. (Photo Alessandro Della Bella)…
22 Mar 2017
Water is indispensablel for life as we know it. The Pacific Ocean photographed from the International Space Station. (Photo NASA)…
22 Mar 2017
For two years, astronomer Henning Avenhaus has worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Santiago, Chile, studying protoplanetary disks and…
13 Mar 2017
The Icelandic firm CCP teamed up with Michel Mayor, renowned exoplanet astronomer and honorary professor at the University of Geneva,…
08 Dec 2016
Professor Willy Benz, Director of NCCR PlanetS. (Photo: Alessandro Della Bella) Dear Reader, Many of you probably remember some privileged…
08 Dec 2016
What's more motivating for a student than to participate in research and perhaps make a real discovery. This is what…
08 Dec 2016
Brice-Olivier Demory is looking for earth-sized, potentially habitable exoplanets. Part of his research strategy is building a telescope in Mexico.…
08 Dec 2016
On 24 November 2016, the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne opened the new space exhibition. A few days later,…
08 Dec 2016
«We saw Hebes Chasma at 2.8 metres per pixel. That’s a bit like flying over Bern at 15’000 kilometres per…
08 Dec 2016
In modern astronomy researchers not only observe celestial objects, but also build them in computers and follow their evolution over…
08 Dec 2016
Click on "next" to see the first/next question. Click on the images to find out what she/he answers. The interviews…
08 Dec 2016
The cliché of the astronomer spending all his/her time the eye behind his/her telescope, looking to the sky, is outdated.…
08 Dec 2016
This October, the Stellarium Gornergrat launched two special weeks called “Space Trip” for hotel guests on site. Being a new…
08 Dec 2016
On Thursday 17 November the European Research Council (ERC) announced to David Ehrenreich, leader of NCCR PlanetS sub-project 3.2 in…
28 Sep 2016
Dear Reader, The discovery of Proxima Centauri b is nothing short of extraordinary: A planet with a mass that appears…
28 Sep 2016
On Friday 30 September 2016 the European spacecraft Rosetta will crash into the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Aboard the Rosetta spacecraft is…
28 Sep 2016
Ravit Helled occupies an office in the buildings of the Irchel campus, University of Zurich, Y11 building. She is with…
28 Sep 2016
Color view of Jupiter's north polar region from NASA's Juno spacecraft (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS) A close-up view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere,…
28 Sep 2016
On 19 October 2016, the spacecraft Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the European ExoMars mission will manoeuvre into Mars orbit.…
28 Sep 2016
To kick of their annual “school trip” in summer 2016 all seven members of the Swiss Federal Council visited the…
28 Sep 2016
This interactive page describes the different elements of the optical bench to test and calibrate the entire optics of the…
28 Sep 2016
On the 5th of September 2016, the Minor Planet Center reported that a small moon is in orbit around asteroid…
28 Sep 2016
On 24 November 2016 the completely redesigned permanent space exhibition at the Museum of Transport in Switzerland will open its…
29 Jun 2016
Willy Benz, Director of the NCCR PlanetS, with the Sun, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Earth in his fingers. (Photo ©…
29 Jun 2016
ESPRESSO, the new very high-resolution spectrometer built under the direction of the Astronomy Department of the University of Geneva, is…
29 Jun 2016
Water is necessary for life as we know it, but too much water is bad for habitability. Therefore, to study…
29 Jun 2016
"The Universe provides ample scope to use one’s own imagination,” says Anna Lehninger.   The art historian investigates children's drawings as…
29 Jun 2016
Once a year renowned experts evaluate the scientific quality and the progress made in every Swiss National Centre of Competence…
29 Jun 2016
Maria Drozdovskaya wants to know what our „astrochemical ancestral tree“ looks like. The incoming Fellow of the Center for Space…
29 Jun 2016
The PlanetS pillar in the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne. (Photo Guido Schwarz) As soon as the pillar about…
29 Jun 2016
Next week, about 240 scientists from Europe and the US will gather in Davos to present and discuss all aspects…
29 Jun 2016
On the occasion of the inauguration of its new building, the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Geneva invites you…
08 Mar 2016
Dear Reader, The year 2016 barely began when the claim was made that there is evidence for a yet undiscovered…
08 Mar 2016
On 14 March 2016, a new Mars mission will be launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Aboard the European spacecraft is…
08 Mar 2016
Members of PlanetS have joined the worldwide race to spot the alleged ninth major object in the outer Solar System.…
08 Mar 2016
Maïa Kuga studies noble gases trapped in meteorites in order to better understand planet formation. Have a look at the…
08 Mar 2016
How do we define what "habitable" means on another planet and how do we look for life elsewhere in the…
08 Mar 2016
They regularly appear in the news: exoplanets. But what exactly are they? And what do they have to do with…
08 Mar 2016
The wall of exoplanets. (Photo: Philippe Wagneur/Muséum de Genève) The exhibition "Exoplanètes" of the Geneva Museum of Natural History comes…
14 Dec 2015
Dear Reader, In 2015 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the first exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star…
14 Dec 2015
The formation of Earth-like planets is like billiards: A tiny change in the first collision of the building blocks can…
14 Dec 2015
“Building the world’s largest telescopes at ESO” was the title of Tim de Zeeuw’s talk at the University of Bern.…
14 Dec 2015
In association with the Canadians from the Montreal University and Brasilian colleagues from the Natal University, the Geneva Observatory and…
14 Dec 2015
The video shows the successful baffle cover opening test performed at Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) – Spain after the…
14 Dec 2015
"In two years time CHEOPS will be in space, so before the launch we must have defined the observation program…
14 Dec 2015
The main science goals of the CHaracterizing ExoPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) will be to study the structure of exoplanets with radii…
14 Dec 2015
Did planets guide the Three Wise Men to the stable near Bethlehem two millennia ago? Or a comet? Or is…
14 Dec 2015
"Sorry, the room is full, you can go to the other auditorium where the conference is broadcast on a giant…
14 Dec 2015
More than 1,200 diplomats, dignitaries, business representatives and other guests met on September 16th at the Swiss embassy’s annual «Soirée…
21 Aug 2015
Dear Reader, Almost 2000 exoplanets have been found since our colleagues Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered the first one…
21 Aug 2015
The space telescope dedicated to characterize exoplanets is taking shape. A camera installed in a clean room shows how the…
21 Aug 2015
Observing exoplanet transits will be one of the big science areas of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), says Mark…
21 Aug 2015
Only a few exoplanets have been photographed directly, the others were found in indirect methods. In order to detect and…
21 Aug 2015
When Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz found the first exoplanet orbiting another solar-type star twenty years ago, Swiss TV documented…
21 Aug 2015
Gliese 436b (also called GJ 436b) could perhaps explain the past of our atmosphere and its future. This planet that…
21 Aug 2015
Looking through a telescope is a thing of the past. Visit the office of Michael Meyer, Professor at ETH Zurich…
21 Aug 2015
Real space enthusiasts would like to own at least a model of spaceships and satellites. Until now the ESA space…
21 Aug 2015
Each month the night sky holds many beautiful and interesting objects that we can observe if the weather gods allow. The…
21 Aug 2015
Although its "Exoplanètes" exhibition is aimed to a wide audience, the Natural History Museum of Geneva is also targeting children…
21 Aug 2015
5 September 2015: Take part in the event «Planetenjagd». How did life originate on Earth? Could life develop elsewhere in the universe?…
07 May 2015
Dear Reader, You are looking at the first edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Center for Competence in Research…
07 May 2015
Studying the data collected at the Observatory of Haute-Provence the astronomers in Geneva knew something big was coming. But they…
07 May 2015
51 Peg b changed our view of the Universe – and the life of its discoverers, Michel Mayor and Didier…
07 May 2015
"When I think that I do not even know what a planet is," exclaimed Véronique, a specialist in contemporary art, pushing…
07 May 2015
There are clear skies on exoplanet HAT-P-11b, whereas infernal winds are blowing high up on HD 189733 b. Today, with…
07 May 2015
At the European Southern Observatory exoplanet science brought a rich harvest in the past, and the future looks even brighter…
06 May 2015
Imagine: You are pointing at the starry night sky and tell your friends «up there flies my drawing through space».…
06 May 2015
A group of researchers led by scientists at the University of Bern have recently published a study describing many amazing…
06 May 2015
The worlds’ fastest code for simulating planet formation calculates millions of possible orbits and close encounters between celestial bodies. It…
06 May 2015
On 14 July 2015 NASA’s New Horizons mission will make the first-ever close flyby of Pluto. The spacecraft should pass…
06 May 2015
Many elements we find on Earth or other planets are made in the core of stars. When a star explodes…