News, Press Releases & Major Announcements

Listed are the major scientific or administrative developments of, or related to, the CSH.


An astronomical waltz reveals a sextuplet of planets

An international collaboration between astronomers using the CHEOPS and TESS space satellites, including NCCR PlanetS members from the University of Bern and the University of Geneva, have found a key new system of six transiting planets orbiting a bright star in a harmonic rhythm. This rare property enabled the team to determine the planetary orbits which initially appeared as an unsolvable riddle.


James Webb Space Telescope identifies origins of icy building blocks of life

Interstellar molecular clouds are considered to be the birth sites of planetary systems. With the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, an international research team including the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS discovered the deepest and coldest ice ever detected in such a molecular cloud. The discovery provides astronomers with new insights into the icy components that could be incorporated into planets over time and eventually form the basis for life.


Small asteroids are probably young

The impact experiment conducted on the asteroid Ryugu by the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission which took place two years ago resulted in an unexpectedly large crater. With the use of simulations, a team led by the University of Bern and the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS has recently succeeded in gaining new insights from the experiment regarding the formation and development of asteroids. These insights are also important for the DART mission of NASA.

A pair of lonely planet-like objects born like stars

An international research team led by Dr. Clémence Fontanive from the CSH has discovered an exotic binary system composed of two young planet-like objects, orbiting around each other from a very large distance. Although these objects look like giant exoplanets, they formed in the same way as stars, proving that the mechanisms driving star formation can produce rogue worlds in unusual systems deprived of a Sun.

Swiss Society for Astrophysics & Astronomy

The CSH is now an institutional member of the Swiss Society for Astrophysics & Astronomy (SSAA).

Liquifying a rocky exoplanet

A hot, molten Earth would be around 5% larger than its solid counterpart. This is the result of a study led by researchers at the University of Bern. The difference between molten and solid rocky planets is important for the search of Earth-like worlds beyond our Solar System and the understanding of Earth itself.

Iron and titanium discovered in the atmosphere of an exoplanet

For the first time, two teams of researchers from the universities of Bern and Geneva, led by Profs. Drs. Kevin Heng and David Ehrenreich, respectively, have definitively discovered iron and titanium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. The existence of these elements in gaseous form was theoretically predicted in a companion paper led by CSH Postdoc Dr. Daniel Kitzmann. The observational discovery paper was led by PlanetS Postdoc Dr. Jens Hoeijmakers.

State-of-the-art mass measurements of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets

What the TRAPPIST-1 planets could look like

Led by CSH senior researcher Dr. Simon Grimm, researchers at the University of Bern obtained the most accurate estimates of the masses of the seven Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 red dwarf star. Dr. Grimm performed state-of-the-art calculations that combined N-body dynamics with a genetic algorithm to analyze transit timing variations (TTVs) of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets.

AAS announces its 2018 prize winners

AAS announces its 2018 prize winners

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, named the recipients of its 2018 prizes for outstanding achievements in scientific research, instrument development, and writing. Prof. Dr. Kevin Heng won the Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award. This is the ninth time the award has been given out by the AAS.

Release of Report on Ultraviolet Direct Imager

Former CSH visitor Dr. Ian Parry led the proposal to ESA of a new idea for a direct imager of habitable exoplanets in the ultraviolet range of wavelengths.

CSH part of LUVOIR Mission Study

Prof. Dr. Kevin Heng is now part of the Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) of the Large Ultraviolet/Optical/Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) mission study led by NASA, with representation from European members.

Seven terrestrial exoplanets around a nearby star

Seven terrestrial exoplanets around a nearby star

An international team of astronomers, including Marko Seskovic and Prof. Dr. Brice-Olivier Demory of the CSH, has discovered a compact analogue of our inner solar system about 40 light-years away with the data collected from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Bernoulli Fellowships Established

The Bernoulli Fellowships have been created by the CSH. These are 4-year joint positions shared between the CSH and its partner institutes or universities. Our inaugural partners in the Bernoulli Fellows are Oxford University and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) at Heidelberg.

Exoplanets I Conference

Exoplanets I Conference

The Exoplanets I conference, held at the Davos Congress Center in July 2016, has been awarded funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation (conference grant), the PlanetS NCCR and the Swiss Society of Astronomy & Astrophysics (SSAA). The chairperson of the Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC) is Prof. Dr. Kevin Heng.