Planetary Physics

Hot mantle upwellings in interior Mars overlaid by surface geological features

The key activities of the department Planetary Gophysics (PLP) are the theoretical modeling of structure and evolution of planetary bodies, interpretation and inversion of geophysical and geochemical mission data, and instrument development for the measurement of physical properties including related laboratory experiments.

Our goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the internal structure and thermochemical evolution of planetary bodies, including interactions between the interior and the atmosphere. While there are commonalities in the internal and external processes, evolution, composition, and interiors of Earth-like (exo)planets, such as iron-rich cores, convecting silicate mantles, outgassing of volatiles, and rigid crustal layers, there are also significant differences that require detailed study. By studying the relevant processes, we can better understand the similarities, differences, and uniqueness of the Earth. Regarding small planetary bodies, other processes may dominate and the evolution could differ from that of the other planets; they therefore play an important role in understanding planetary evolution as witnesses to the early solar system.

Members of the department are PIs, Co-Is or interdisciplinary scientists in space missions such as InSight, MMX, BepiColombo, JUICE, VERITAS, EnVision and PLATO as well as for the instrument LISTER within the CLPS initiative and provide further scientific support for mission proposals.

Key Competences of the Department

  • Internationally recognized group in modelling the thermochemical evolution and interior structure of terrestrial planets and moons.
  • Development of state-of-the-art 1 to 3D thermochemical mantle convection codes aided by innovative machine learning techniques.
  • State-of-the-art numerical models of thermomechanical and geophysical properties, complemented by laboratory work.
  • Development, construction, calibration and operation of near-surface geophysical instruments.
  • PI and Co-I in ESA, NASA, JAXA missions.



Mission Contributions of the Department



Prof.Dr. Doris Breuer

Department Head
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institut of Planetary Research
Department Planetary Physics
Rutherfordstr. 2, 12489 Berlin