Planetary Science by Space Missions



Complex Organic Molecules On Saturn's Moon Enceladus english / german.


Our group is participating in a Japanese asteroid mission. english / german.


Nature Astronomy article on how Enceladus’ hydrothermal systems might work. english / german.

2016-12-01 ERC Consolidator grant

ERC Consolidator grant for Frank Postberg

PD Dr. Frank Postberg, Leiter der Forschungsgruppe „Raumfahrtbasierte Planetologie“ am Institut für Geowissenschaften, erhielt einen der begehrten Consolidator Grants des European Research Council (ERC). Über einen Zeitraum von fünf Jahren wird die Erkundung der Habitabilität von Ozeanen gefördert, die sich unter der Oberfläche der Eismonde der Planeten Jupiter und Saturn befinden. Insbesondere die Ozeane der cryo-vulkanisch aktiven Monde Enceladus und Europa gelten als Orte mit dem wohl höchsten astrobiologischen Potential in unserem Sonnensystem.

PM Univerity Heidelberg


2016-10-01 Scientific American Article

Scientific American Article (in October 2016 issue) “Under the Sea of Enceladus”  By Frank Postberg, Gabriel Tobie and Thorsten Dambeck
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Science Research Article Release (15th April 2016) “Flux and composition of interstellar dust at Saturn from Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer” by Nico Altobelli, Frank Postberg et al.

Altobelli, N.*, Postberg, F.*, Fliege, K.*, Trieloff, M.* et al. Science 352, Issue 6283, p. 312 - 318
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

The paper describes the first ever in situ compositional measurement of contemporary interstellar dust (ISD). This was accomplished by the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA) onboard the Cassini space craft currently in orbit about Saturn. The composition of 36 individually analysed ISD particles is surprisingly similar with very small grain to grain variation and does not reflect the different dust populations initially injected into interstellar space by dying stars. This shows that these initially heterogenous dust populations are repeatedly destructed in the hot interstellar medium and by Super Nova shock waves and recondense from homogenized vapour phases in the cold medium.



Nature Article (12th March 2015) “Ongoing hydrothermal activities within Enceladus” by Hsiang-Wen Hsu, Frank Postberg et al.

Hsiang-Wen Hsu*, Frank Postberg*, Yasuhito Sekine* et al. Nature 519, p. 207-210 (2015), doi:10.1038 *These authors contributed equally to this work.

The results are the first clear indications that Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has active hydrothermal activity in its subsurface ocean. Seawater infiltrates and reacts with a rocky crust, emerging as a heated, mineral-laden solution. The reported finding of the first hydrothermal activity beyond Earth adds to the tantalizing possibility that Enceladus, which displays remarkable geologic activity, could be a habitable place in our solar system.

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