(Exo-)Planetary Atmospheres

The solar wind interacts with the Mars upper atmosphere (left), but is deflected past Earth (right) by a global magnetic field (artist's concept, NASA/GSFC).

The (Exo-)Planetary Atmospheres research group develops and applies theoretical models where the influence of solar/stellar short wave radiation and plasma on atmospheric-magnetospheric environments of planets is studied. Observational data obtained from space missions are used as support for validating models.

A focus lies on the understanding of how the atmospheres of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars have evolved during the early active phase of the young Sun since their origin. Comparative studies with exoplanets are carried out. The research activities also contain electrodynamical processes in magnetospheres. Morevover, the energy deposition in the upper atmosphere of planets caused by the interaction with stellar radiation and plasma is studied.

Other studies concentrate on the origin of mineralogical gas envelopes around airless bodies. Such envelopes are caused due to the direct interaction of radiation and plasma with the planetary surface. The research group investigates how the released minerals are transported in the body’s environment and how the ionized components are modified by magnetic fields.

The knowledge gained from the study of solar system bodies helps the Exoplanets group to characterize and interprete exoplanetary data.