“The Cosmic Neutrino Background” with Julien Lesgourgues (RWTH Aachen, Germany)

Since neutrinos are known to be very light and elusive, they are often thought to play a very small part in the history of the universe. This is all but true. A numerous population of neutrinos, known as the Cosmic Neutrino Background, was produced in the early universe and has been staying around since then. Neutrinos have actually been the second most numerous particle in the universe for billions of years, and they were the second contributor to the total energy budget of the universe over most of the initial 50 000 years. These neutrinos are very difficult to measure directly, but we have several indirect (although very clear) indications of their presence. The next generation of cosmological observations will probe this component in more detail, in order to test neutrino properties and weigh their masses.

Julien Lesgourgues is a professor at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, since 2015. He graduated in France at Ecole Polytechnique and received his PhD from the University of Tours. He has occupied various postdoc and junior staff positions at SISSA (Trieste), LAPTh (Annecy), CERN (Geneva) and EPFL (Lausanne). Julien Lesgourgues is a theoretical cosmologist, specialised in the comparison of cosmological models with observations. He is a leading developer of numerical codes simulating the evolution of the whole universe on the largest scales, from the beginning of inflation until today. As a member of the Planck satellite collaboration, he shared the Gruber Cosmology Prize 2018. He is currently a member of the Euclid satellite collaboration. Julien Lesgourgues co-authored more than two hundred publications and a couple of textbooks including one on Neutrino Cosmology (CUP 2013).

Webinar was recorded on September 22, 2022

“An Infinity of Worlds: Cosmic Inflation and the Beginning of the Universe” with Will Kinney (University of Buffalo, USA)

In the beginning was the Big Bang: an unimaginably hot fire almost fourteen billion years ago in which the first elements were forged. The physical theory of the hot nascent universe—the Big Bang—was one of the most consequential developments in twentieth-century science. And yet it leaves many questions unanswered: Why is the universe so big? Why is it so old? What is the origin of structure in the cosmos? In An Infinity of Worlds, physicist Will Kinney explains a more recent theory that may hold the answers to these questions and even explain the ultimate origins of the universe: cosmic inflation, before the primordial fire of the Big Bang.

Will Kinney is a professor in the Department of Physics at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, where he has been on faculty since 2003. Dr. Kinney received his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University, and PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has worked as a research associate at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Florida, and Columbia University, and held visiting positions at Yale University, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, the University of Chicago, the University of Valencia, and Stockholm University. Dr. Kinney’s research focuses on the physics of the very early universe, including inflationary cosmology, the Cosmic Microwave Background, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy. He has authored more than seventy published research articles, and received the SUNY Chancellor’s award for excellence in teaching in 2014.

Webinar was recorded on September 15, 2022

“On the Emergence of Relativistic Structure from Discrete Space-Time” with Tim Maudlin (New York University, USA)

The empirical success of Special and General Relativity, and of theories that incorporate Relativistic symmetries, argues that the Relativistic account of space-time structure must approximate the truth. But on the other hand, the confirmed violations of Bell’s Inequality for experiments done at space-like separation equally appears to argue for some global foliation of space-time that does not appear in the Relativistic theory. In addition, certain problems concerning singularities in physics could be avoided if a space-time continuum were replaced by a discrete structure. The speaker will present some results from an approach to space-time he calls Full Discrete Space-Time and will show how approximately Relativistic Structure emerges from it in a quite unexpected way.

Tim Maudlin is Professor of Philosophy at NYU and Founder and Director of the John Bell Institute for the Foundations of Physics. Before joining NYU he was at Rutgers for a quarter century. He has a BA in Physics and Philosophy from Yale and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from Pittsburgh. His research interests lie primarily in the foundations of physics, metaphysics, and logic. His books include Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity (Blackwell), Truth and Paradox (Oxford), The Metaphysics Within Physics (Oxford), Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton University Press), New Foundations for Physical Geometry: The Theory of Linear Structures (Oxford). Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory (Princeton). He is a member of the Academie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences and the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) and has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an ACLS fellow.

Webinar was recorded on September 8, 2022

A Word form the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our web site,

I hope you had a good and relaxing summer! 

Actually, the Swiss summer as in many parts of Europe was exceptionally sunny, dry and warm. Together with the increased number of unusually warm seasons this decade, it is widely regarded as a consequence of climate change. Quite fittingly, ISSI’s Game Changers Seminar series this spring dealt with aspects of climate change, including the risks to the water budget and how to fight the crisis. Interested, but missed the talks? They are recorded and available here like all the other previous Game Changers Seminar talks. 

This fall – starting this Thursday – the Game Changers Seminar series will be dedicated to “Captivating Cosmology: From the Big Bang to Tomorrow”. The first talk will be by philosopher and physicist Tim Maudlin, who will speak about his ideas on the origin of the relativistic structure of space-time. 

Cosmology and space observation in general received a big boost last Christmas with the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. The JWST observes at unprecedented resolution and will look deeper into space and thus further back in time then any other telescope before, including the Hubble Space Telescope. ISSI celebrated the first release of JWST images and data on July 12th as the Swiss node of a worldwide network of events. The event at ISSI included presentations by Swiss scientists who either contributed to the JWST hardware or had successfully competed for observing time. The event was broadcast on our Youtube channel and the recording is available. As is the tradition on such happy occasions, the day closed with the Swiss institution of an Apéro reception.

At the moment, ISSI is running its program at an estimated 150% of its capacity, with many weeks with three teams in attendance, plus other meetings in parallel, rather than the usual two. The ISSI directorate is exceedingly thankful to the staff for taking on this extra work load. With the increased number of visitors comes an increased risk of infection, however, and therefore ISSI continues to ask visitors to wear masks on its premises. These measures helped keeping the transmission of COVID under control.

Also in the spring, ISSI was evaluated by a Visiting Committee of internationally renowned scientists, chaired by Dr. Stephan Ulamec of DLR. Their very positive report boosted the motivation of the entire ISSI staff in these demanding times.

With the beginning of September, ISSI once again has a complete staff. Prof. Thierry Dudok de Wit started his term as Space Science director at ISSI on September 1st. Also, Dr. Roland Hohensinn joined the team as Earth Science post-doctoral fellow, working with Earth Science director Michael Rast on climate related remote sensing data and uncertainties in climate variable time series, for which he will use machine-learning methods. On June 1st already, Prof. Rumi Nakamura joined as discipline scientist, helping the institute with her expertise in plasma physics. Finally, on May 15th Dr. Christian Malacaria started his post-doc fellowship in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Christian will work with Astronomy and Astrophysics director Maurizio Falanga on high-energy astrophysics of black holes and neutron stars.

ISSI welcomes the new staff members and is extremely thankful to them for making themselves available. 

Stay safe and come to meet at ISSI anytime soon!
All the best
Tilman Spohn  
ISSI executive Director

Job Posting: Secretary (100%)

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) is an Institute of Advanced Studies where scientists from all over the world meet in a multi- and interdisciplinary setting to reach out for new scientific horizons.

To support these activities, ISSI is seeking a

Secretary (100%)

to begin as of 1st November 2022 or as agreed.


Duties include:

  • Secretarial tasks, including mailings and maintenance of mailing lists
  • Hotel and travel arrangements both for visiting scientists and staff
  • Checking and classification of invoices
  • Preparation of meetings / documentation, writing minutes
  • Correspondence in German / English

We’re looking for someone who is:

  • Native German speaker with excellent spoken and written English; good French is a plus
  • Skilled in MS Word, Internet and team collaboration tools; knowledge of other programs, especially Access, Powerpoint and Excel, is a plus
  • Willing to work in a small team, but
  • Able to work independently
  • Willing to assist other staff members in administrative matters as needed

We offer:

  • An interesting, challenging international atmosphere
  • A small organization with 15 members
  • Salary commensurate with experience
  • Employment conditions similar to the University of Bern

Job application and usual documents (in German or English) should be sent as a pdf-file by e-mail to silvia.wenger@issibern.ch

Antonella Nota appointed as the next ISSI Executive Director from January 1, 2023

Following a decision taken by the ISSI Board of Trustees during its meeting on 20 May, 2022, Prof. Dr. Antonella Nota will be the next ISSI Executive Director, starting on 1 January, 2023.

Until last May, Antonella Nota was the Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Office at STScI, in Baltimore, USA. Over the years, she has been, among other responsibilities, ESA HST Project Scientist; Mission Manager, ESA HST Project Scientist; JWST Project Scientist, Head of the Science Division at STScI, and Associate STScI Director for ESA.

Her research interests are related to the fields of massive stars and young stellar clusters.  

A full press release will be published by ISSI near the end of 2022.

The ISSI Board of Trustees

Using Energetic Electron And Ion Observations to Investigate Solar Wind Structures and Infer Solar Wind Magnetic Field Configurations

Report from ISSI Team #469 Using Energetic Electron And Ion Observations To Investigate Solar Wind Structures And Infer Solar Wind Magnetic Field Configurations led by G. Li and L. Wang

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) represent some of the most energetic processes in the entire solar system. They are often associated with Solar Energetic Particle Events (SEP events) and are major concerns of space weather studies. When CMEs happen, they drive shock waves in front of them and charged particles are accelerated at the shock front through the diffusive shock acceleration mechanism. Protons and ions can be accelerated to the energy beyond 1 GeV/nuc in some of the most energetic SEP events. Understanding how particles are accelerated in these events and how these accelerated particles propagate to the Earth has been a central problem for space plasma physics.

Members in ISSI Team #469, including team leader Dr. G. Li and team member Dr. L. Zhao has recently won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant through the ANSWERS program. This four-year, $2.301 million grant from the NSF started in July 2022 and will assist the PI and his team to develop a comprehensive scientific model to understand and predict how CMEs influence the energetic particle radiation environment in the inner solar system and Earth’s magnetosphere, and compare those results with measurements at the Earth’s surface. The grant supports a multidisciplinary team including UAH, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and the National Solar Observatory. Dr Li and Dr. Zhao, from UAH and UM are PI and Co-PI of this grant. The propagation of energetic protons and ions in the solar wind follow the same interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) lines as those energetic electrons, and studying the configuration of the IMFs is the goal of the ISSI team 469. We expect our ISSI study will be of great value to the newly funded NSF ANSWERS program.

Press Release of the University from Alabama in Huntsville >> 

Swiss Space Community Celebrates Initiation of the James Webb Space Telescope

by Arian Bastani, NCCR PlanetS, University of Bern

The consortium of the North American (NASA), European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies released a series of first images of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on 12th July 2022. Swiss contributors from academia, government and industry gathered at the International Swiss Space Institute (ISSI) in Bern to inform about their contributions and projects related to the JWST.

“There is no empty space for the James Webb Space Telescope”, Antonella Nota, Webb Project Scientist and former head of the ESA office at the Space Telescope Science Institute announced at the event at the International Swiss Space Institute (ISSI) in Bern. “The first test image that was released in spring was supposed to capture a sole star in front of an empty space field”, the ESA astronomer explained. “But the image was peppered with galaxies and stars in the background.”

Antonella Nota points out the extraordinary capabilities of JWST. (Image: Guido Schwarz)

This first glimpse proved to be just that: a mere taste of the capabilities of the most modern space telescope. On Tuesday, the first full colour images – so-called Early Release Observations – were released by NASA. “These show a number of especially intriguing objects and regions of the Universe, that are not necessarily of great scientific value but rather demonstrate the incredible capabilities of the telescope”, Nota said.



Passing the Key

Numerous personalities of the national space science community, such as astronaut Claude Nicollier, Willy Benz (NCCR PlanetS, University of Bern), Sascha Quanz (ETH Zürich), David Ehrenreich (University of Genève), Jean-Paul Kneib (EPFL), all ISSI Directors as well as media representatives gathered in Bern for the Swiss press conference. Before they joined the live-feed from NASA, several researchers gave presentation on their JWST projects – including Adrian Glauser, who led the Swiss contribution to the instrument development.

Adrian Glauser explains to the audience how the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) works. (Image: Guido Schwarz)

“The telescope’s only job is basically to gather and focus light”, Glauser said during his presentation. Most of the scientific results will come from the analysis of that light, enabled by four instruments. One of these, the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI), was developed with a Swiss contribution that was led by NCCR PlanetS member Adrian Glauser at ETH Zurich since 2007.

The contribution consists of a Contamination Control Cover, which protects MIRI against external contamination during the cooldown phase of the tests and after the launch as well as Cryo-​Cables, which connect the cryogenic mechanisms, calibration sources and temperature sensors of the cold optical bench with the warmer electronics.

MIRI is the only instrument covering the poorly explored wavelength ranges from 5 μm to 28 μm. To be able to do so, it has to be cooled down to minus 266 degrees Celsius (7 degrees above absolute zero), making it the coldest part in the JWST.

“During the past few months we commissioned the instrument and I am glad to say that everything works perfectly. The key therefore now passes from those who developed JWST and its instruments to the researchers who will use them”, Glauser said.

The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope’s first full-colour images and spectras, which uncover a spectacular collection of cosmic features that have remained elusive until now, were released on 12th July 2022. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)


Tracing the Building Blocks of Life

At the event at ISSI, several researchers like Adrian Glauser, Pascal Oesch, Anne Verhamme and Antonella Nota presented what they intend to do with this metaphorical key. Among them, NCCR PlanetS associate and Uni Bern researcher Beatrice Kulterer. She is involved in the so-called Ice Age project, that aims to track the essential molecular ingredients of life from their formation in dense molecular interstellar clouds to their eventual incorporation into the planet-forming regions around young stars.

“The Rosetta space research mission already revealed that organic molecules, such as the amino acid glycine, exist on comets”, Kulterer said. “But it is unclear to what extent these molecules end up in forming planets. The James Webb Telescope will for the first time allow us to study this in great detail.”

“I follow the development of JWST since my time as an undergraduate student. I am very excited to finally be able to work with it and hope to spend a large part of my research career doing so”, Kulterer concluded.

This event was recorded and the edited video will be soon available.


“State of the Climate Crisis: Changes in Climate Extremes and Relevance of Remote Sensing Data” with Sonia I. Seneviratne (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)


This presentation provides an overview of the main conclusions of the 6th Assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2021) on observed and projected changes in weather and climate extremes. For the first time, a full chapter of the IPCC assessment report was dedicated to the topic of weather and climate extremes (Seneviratne et al. 2021). The newest evidence shows that changes in extremes are observed in all regions of the world, and that human influence strongly contributed to observed trends. With every increment of global warming, changes in extremes become larger, with important implications for changes in heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones depending on the region. All regions are projected to be affected by multiple changes in climate extremes and other climatic impact drivers with increasing global warming, in particular above 2°C of global warming. Sonia I. Seneviratne also discusses how remote sensing measurements are contributing to research on climate extremes, and what type of future missions could best contribute to this research area.


IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, In press, doi:10.1017/9781009157896. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

Seneviratne, S.I., X. Zhang, M. Adnan, W. Badi, C. Dereczynski, A. Di Luca, S. Ghosh, I. Iskandar, J. Kossin, S. Lewis, F. Otto, I. Pinto, M. Satoh, S.M. Vicente-Serrano, M. Wehner, and B. Zhou, 2021: Weather and Climate Extreme Events in a Changing Climate. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1513–1766, doi:10.1017/9781009157896.013. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

Sonia I. Seneviratne is Professor for Land-​Climate Dynamics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She completed an MSc in Environmental Physics (1999) and a PhD thesis in Climate science (2003) at ETH Zurich. She was then a visiting researcher at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (2003-​2004), in Greenbelt, Maryland (USA). After returning as senior scientist at ETH Zurich, she was appointed as Assistant Professor at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Sciences in 2007. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2013, and Full Professor in 2016. Sonia Seneviratne has published more than 200 peer-​reviewed articles. She is listed among the highly cited researchers of Web of science (Clarivate Analytics/Thomson Reuters). In her research, she investigates climate extremes (droughts, heatwaves), land-​climate processes, and human-​induced climate change, based on climate modelling and data analyses, including ground and satellite observations. Sonia Seneviratne has received several awards for her research, among others the Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU, 2013), a consolidator grant of the European Research Council (ERC, 2014-​2019), and the Hans-​Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU, 2021). Sonia Seneviratne was an author on several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She was recently a lead author of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C global warming (2017-​2018) and a coordinating lead author of the 6th assessment report of the IPCC (2018-​2021).

Webinar was recorded on July 7, 2022

“ESA CLIMATE CHANGE INITIATIVE in support of Terrestrial Carbon science: A view from Space” with Clement Albergel (ESA Climate Office, UK)

Observing changes to the Earth’s climate is vital to informing policies and actions that address the consequences of a changing climate, manage risks and enhance resilience. The European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) research programme in 2008 in response to this need. The CCI is a coordinated Research & Development programme that generates robust, long-term, global satellite-derived datasets for key indicators of climate change known as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs). These ECVS are specified by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and support, not only, the climate information needs of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but also the wider climate community. The CCI harnesses 40 years of Earth Observation archives and combines them with data from both Third party and current missions including the Copernicus Sentinel missions. Under CCI there are currently 24 dedicated ECV project teams developing 22 ECVs. In this talk, the speaker will introduce the ESA Climate Change Initiative as well as some of the ECV projects, with a specific focus on those that can be used in support of Terrestrial Carbon science.

Clement Albergel is a scientist working at the ESA Climate Office in the UK where he develops climate applications related to terrestrial surfaces. Prior to ESA he has held position in the research departments of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) as well as of the French Meteorological service (Meteo-France) working on land surface analysis. His activities at ESA are mainly shared between ESA Climate program (ESA Climate Change Initiative), program in support of international development (GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE (esa.int))  and EOAFRICA (EO AFRICA – Research and Development Facility (eoafrica-rd.org)), all implemented under the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes.

Webinar was recorded on June 30, 2022