Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres

Some of the different types of exoplanets and their host stars, artist impression
CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) launched in 2019, studies exoplanet systems from a distance, accurately measuring the size of the planets as they pass in front of their host star. These measurements, combined with information about the mass of the planet based on separate observations, will enable the density of the planets to be estimated. This will place limits on the possible composition and structure of the planets and show, for example, whether they are predominantly rocky or gaseous, or whether they might be home to significant oceans. CHEOPS will focus in particular on bright stars that host Earth to Neptune-sized planets.



Our expertise lies in the detection and precise characterisation of extrasolar planets and in the modelling of planetary atmospheres, with a focus on the conditions that make planets habitable. We make observations (mostly from space) to gain insight into bulk and atmospheric properties of exoplanets and planets in our solar system. We develop new techniques, models and theories to better understand habitable conditions and the remote detection of biosignatures. We design and operate exoplanet space missions and scientifically exploit the data acquired.

In order to address questions concerning planetary formation, evolution, and habitability, we combine the analysis of observational data with a state-of-the-art coupled climate-photochemistry-biogeochemistry atmospheric model (1D-TERRA). Our research provides insight into the interior structure and atmospheric properties of planets. We perform comparative studies of planets in and out of our solar system, paying particular attention to the atmospheres of (early) Earth, Venus, and Mars.

Our scientific work is accomplished within international cooperation networks. Our main projects are PLATO, ESA’s M3 mission in the Cosmic Vision programme; CHEOPS, ESA’s mission dedicated to the precise characterisation of known planetary systems; NGTS, the Next Generation Transit Survey, a set of 12 telescopes in the Atacama desert in Chile, searching for small planets around cool dwarfs; the KESPRINT collaboration to characterise extrasolar planets detected by the NASA missions K2 and TESS; and LIFE, the project involving a direct imaging space telescope to characterise the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets.

Key Competences of the Department

  • State-of-the-art atmospheric climate-biogeochemical model for terrestrial planets (1D-TERRA), including photochemistry and unique air shower physics.
  • International leadership in the scientific assessment of extrasolar planet data from space.
  • Holistic modelling approach for a range of different (exo)planets in a generalised framework complementary to (3D) Earth-based and Solar System modeling.
  • Expertise on the analysis of observations constraining planetary interior structure (e.g. Love number).
  • Comparative studies of solar and extrasolar planets, with focus on the atmospheres of (early) Earth, Venus, and Mars.

Mission Contributions of the Department



Dr. Juan Cabrera Perez

Department Head
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Planetary Research
Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin