Frontiers in Solar System Studies and Exploration

Frontiers in Solar System Studies and Exploration

Phd course, 3 ECTS credits
3-4-5 April 2023

Lecturers: Dr. Alessandro Pisello (University of Perugia), Dr. Maximiliano Fastelli (University of Perugia), Dr. Mickael Baqué (DLR) 


The history of the Solar System can be investigated through the observation of its solid bodies: the planets and the asteroids. Planetary studies represent a great branch in nowadays scientific research, which is able to connect astrophysicists, geologists, chemists, engineers, biologists, and more through intense interdisciplinary collaboration.

Specifically, current missions to Mars, like Mars2020 and Mars Sample Return of NASA and the upcoming ExoMars rover of ESA, as well as future missions to asteroids, comets and other planets of our Solar system, like the icy moons of Jupiter or our neighbour “hellish” planet Venus, require more and more interdisciplinary perspectives and insights to tackle fundamental questions from the formation of planets to the origin and distribution of life in our Universe. Finally, with the successful launch of the first Space Launch System and the Artemis-1 mission in November 2022, space research is now more than ever back on the spotlight with the need to prepare human and scientific exploration of the Moon and Mars.

We are proposing a 3-day course that will provide the basic knowledge that a modern Phd or Master student must have regarding how data from telescopes and satellites were used to interpret the nature of celestial bodies to understand what elements, rocks and minerals compose the surface of the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets of the Solar System.
The course will cover three macro-themes: Volcanism and Geology of Terrestrial Planets, Icy Bodies and Asteroids, and Traces of life beyond Earth.

Moreover, since it is important that modern PhD and Master students which are interested in the study of planetary science develop the capacity to network and understand presentations by scientists from different fields, during the course it will also be possible to listen to seminars and get in touch with different researchers who will give a glance at cutting-edge science on their field of work.

Finally, the course will comprise practical sessions that will focus on the retrieval and interpretation of spectral data.


All activities will take place in person at Palazzo delle Scienze, Piazza Università, Perugia.

Day 1 (03/04/2023)

09:00-10:40 – Lecture by Alessandro Pisello (UniPg)
Volcanism and Geology of Terrestrial Planets

Coffe Break

“Frontiers” seminars convened by A. Pisello:

11:00-11:40, Solmaz Adeli (DLR Berlin):
Salt minerals deposits on Mars, a window into the past planet’s climate and habitability

11:40-12:20, Valentina Galluzzi (INAF-IAPS Roma)
Investigating Mercury’s geology: geomorphology, volcanism, and tectonics of a shrunk planet

12:20-13:00, Gene Schmidt (Roma 3 University)
Structural Geology and Deformational Histories of Planetary Bodies

Lunch Break

14:30-16:00 – Planetary mapping practical exercise (V. Galluzzi)
16:00-17:30 – Visit of experimental petrology lab, and spectral characterization exercise (A. Pisello, M. Fastelli)

Day 2 (04/04/2023)

09:00-10:40 – Lecture by Maximiliano Fastelli (UniPg)
Icy Bodies and Asteroids

Coffe Break

“Frontiers” seminars convened by M. Fastelli:

11:00-11:40, Olivier Poch (IPAG France):
Polarimetry of water ice particles providing insights on grain size and degree of sintering on icy planetary surfaces

11:40-12:20, Giovanni Poggiali (LESIA-Observatoire de Paris)
Biosignatures in the Solar System: from laboratory to space mission the quest for traces of past, present (or future) life on planetary bodies

12:20-13:00, Andrea Raponi (INAF-IAPS Roma)
Ceres: to the origins of the solar system and life

Lunch Break

14:30-16:00 – Magma ocean and outgassed atmosphere: a tool to investigate the early Earth evolution (G. Ortenzi)
16:00-17:30 – Data retrieval of planetary information, the SSDC infrastructure. (A. Zinzi)

Day 3 (05/04/2023)

09:00-11:00 – Lecture by Mickael Baqué (DLR Berlin):
Traces of life beyond Earth

“Frontiers” seminars convened by Mickael Baqué:

11:00-11:40, Alessia Cassaro (UniBo-UniTus):
The amazing journey of the polyextremophilic black fungus Cryomyces antarcticus: from Antarctica to space

11:40-12:20, Anna Barbaro (UniPd)
Investigation of extraterrestrial materials: how to understand our solar system through minerals

12:20-13:00, Fabian Klenner (Freie Universitaet Berlin)
Searching for Life on Icy Moons in the Solar System

2023 edition is over. See you in 2024