Magnetic Switchbacks in the Young Solar Wind

Workshop Report Magnetic Switchbacks in the Young Solar Wind convened by Marco Velli, Maria Madjarska, Stuart Bale, Olga Panasenco, Etienne Pariat, Anna Tenerani, Tim Horbury, and Thierry Dudok de Wit

The observation by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission of very strong magnetic field fluctuations in the inner heliosphere, leading to strong deflections locally reversing the direction of the field itself, called switchbacks, has attracted considerable attention from the heliophysics and space physics communities.

Workshop Participants 

A recent ISSI workshop (18–22 September 2023) brought together solar and solar wind scientists with the objective of better understanding how these structures are formed and how they contribute to solar wind heating, acceleration, and the scattering of energetic particles. Though there remain competing theories for the formation and development of switchbacks, a major outcome of the workshop was the recognition of role played by small scale energetic magnetic field annihilation (or reconnection) events, exchanging plasma between open and closed fields in the lower corona, that lead to the development of small-scale jets of hot plasma. There is general agreement that these may provide the necessary conditions for the formation of switchbacks in the corona and inner heliosphere. A series of review papers describing the current state of our understanding of switchbacks and the outcomes of the workshop will be published in the journal Space Science Reviews and as a volume in the Space Science Series of ISSI.

“Essential Climate Variable (ECV) Products from Satellite Gravimetry” with Adrian Jäggi (University of Bern, Switzerland)

Satellite gravimetry missions such as the on-going GRACE Follow-On (FO) mission, the planned GRACE-FO continuation mission as well as a Next Generation Gravity Mission (NGGM) that will form together with the GRACE-FO continuation mission the Mass-change and Geosciences International Constellation (MAGIC), are unique observing systems to measure the tiny variations of the Earth’s gravity field. Time-variable gravity derived by satellite gravimetry provides integrative measures of Terrestrial Water Storage (TWS) variations on a regional to global scale. Given the large interest of the scientific community to understand the processes of changes in TWS, comprising all the water storage on the Earth’s continental areas in frozen and liquid state, including ice caps, glaciers, snow cover, soil moisture, groundwater and the storage in surface water bodies and the interaction with ocean mass and sea level, TWS was adopted as a new Essential Climate Variable (ECV) in the implementation plan 2022 of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS).

In this talk an overview of the underlying principles of the challenging satellite gravimetry data analysis is given and selected key scientific results and products are highlighted. A special focus is on European and international initiatives such as the Combination Service of Time-variable Gravity Fields (COST-G) of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) and the H2020 project Global Gravity-based Groundwater Product (G3P) to exploit this unique observable in order to eventually derive the ECV Groundwater.

Groundwater is a most fundamental resource, but there is no service available yet to deliver data nor is there any other data source worldwide that operationally provides information on changing groundwater resources in a consistent, observation-based way with global coverage. By capitalizing from TWS derived from satellite gravimetry and from other satellite-based water storage compartments the H2020 project G3P established a prototype to provide groundwater storage change for large areas with global coverage that is planned to be included as a cross-cutting extension of the existing service portfolio of the European Union’s Earth Observation programme Copernicus.

Adrian Jäggi is the Director of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB) in Switzerland. He is a Fellow of the International Association for Geodesy (IAG) and was president of IAG’s Commission 2 (Gravity Field) between 2019 and 2023. He initiated several international scientific projects in the field of space geodesy, among them projects funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation and the European Research Council, and is the founding Chair of IAG’s Combination Service of Time-variable Gravity fields (COST-G).

Webinar was recorded on September 28, 2023

Surface-Bounded Exospheres and Interactions in the Inner Solar System

New Topical Collection published in Space Science Reviews (Open Access)

A new collection of 8 review articles has been completed and is available online in Space Science Reviews, a printed book version will be published as volume 84 of the Space Sciences Series of ISSI.

Studying the evolution of the surfaces and atmospheres of planetary bodies in the solar system is fundamental to our understanding of the present state of the solar system. Exospheres are the interfaces between the planetary body and the open space, so that, studying the exospheric filling and loss processes is the way to expand knowledge of the body’s evolution. While the exospheres are present around any kind of planetary body, they are quite different if we consider the bodies with an atmosphere and those without a collisional gas envelope.  In the latter case the exosphere is directly connected to the surface, thus, it is called surface-bounded exosphere, since the surface release processes are also the exospheric filling ones and atoms and molecules collide with the surface far more frequently than collisions with each other. 

Edited by Anna Milillo, Menelaos Sarantos, Benjamin D. Teolis, Go Murakami, and Peter Wurz, this collection presents results from the ISSI Workshop “Surface Bounded Exospheres and Interactions in the Solar System”, held 20–24 January 2020, which reviewed the knowledge on the surface-bounded exosphere conditions, generation, variability and loss processes, from theoretical, observational and experimental points of view. The output collects the present state of knowledge on this subject and drafts a roadmap for future investigations in view of the next missions, i.e., BepiColombo to Mercury or orbiters and landers to be operated on the Moon.

Complete Topical Collection in Space Science Reviews >>

Science for a Better World

We have previously expressed ISSI’s concern about the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis. The need to maintain science as a platform for dialogue even in times of conflict has become more prominent. As this war continues and other tensions rise around the world, it seems more important than ever to maintain institutions where such peaceful and constructive dialogue can take place. Science is a universal language that knows no geographical or political boundaries, nor boundaries related to race, gender or sexual orientation.

ISSI provides an open and neutral environment where such open and free discussions about Space and Earth Science, and related fields can take place. Dialogue between scientists promotes not only better science, but also a better mutual understanding among people of different origins and cultures. At ISSI we like to think of this as our own small contribution to a better world.

The Team at ISSI and Willy Benz, chair of the Board of Trustees

“Combining Exoplanet Measurement Techniques to Discover, Weigh and Characterize Cold Gas Giants” with Emily Rickman (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA)

Giant planets and brown dwarfs at an orbital separation great than 5 AU are important puzzle pieces needed for constraining the uncertainties that exist in giant planet formation and evolutionary models that are plagued by a lack of observational constraints. In order to observationally probe this mass-separation parameter space, direct imaging is necessary but faces the difficulty of low detection efficiency. To utilize the power of direct imaging, pre-selecting companion candidates with long-period radial velocities, coupled with astrometry from Hipparcos and Gaia, provide a powerful tool to hunt for the most promising candidates for direct imaging. Not only does this increase the detection efficiency, but this wealth of information removes the degeneracy of unknown orbital parameters, leading to derived dynamical masses which can serve as benchmark objects to test models of formation and evolution. With the recently launched JWST, as well as upcoming facilities like the ELT and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, observing time is valuable and the strategy of direct imaging needs to be re-defined to pre-select targets and characterize the companions that we do discover.

Emily Rickman is a Science Operations Scientist for the European Space Agency (ESA) based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Emily Rickman is a member of the Hubble Space Telescope team providing support to the STIS instrument as well as a project-level member of the JWST Telescope Scientist Team for coronagraphy, and the JWST High-Contrast Imaging ERS Team. Emily Rickman earned her doctorate in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Geneva Observatory in 2020, where she also spent some time as a postdoctoral researcher. She was then awarded a fellowship with the European Space Agency at STScI. Prior to earning her PhD, Emily Rickman graduated from the University of Sheffield with a first-class Masters degree with honors in Physics and Astrophysics, including spending one year as a researcher at the Australian National University.

Webinar was recorded on August 31, 2023

The Economics and Law of Space-Based Commerce (WTI-ISSI Conference 17–19 January 2024)

This workshop will focus on the economics and governance of commercialisation in outer space. It will look at the applicability of economic concepts, the concepts of international economic law, and the concepts of economic governance to space-based commerce.

The goal of the workshop is twofold. The first goal is identifying promising areas for future research along the lines outlined above, specifically a cross-disciplinary mix of economics, law, political science, and applied natural science. The second goal is to enlist interested researchers in setting up a research and workshop agenda and loose organizational/coordinating structure (a researcher network) based on the areas identified.

The workshop will be hosted jointly by the World Trade Institute (WTI) and the International Space Science Institute.

Venue: ISSI, Hallerstrasse 6, CH-3012 Bern (first floor)

Call for Papers

Submission Guidelines: Please submit paper proposals on original and unpublished research related to this call for papers. Abstract submissions must be between 300-500 words in length and should be accompanied by a short CV.

To submit your proposals, for further details, or to express interest, please contact Sophia Thompson,

Deadline for abstracts: 15 September 2023.

Accepted authors will be notified by 15 October 2023.

Further information >>

Call Johannes Geiss Fellowship 2024

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland invites applications for the Johannes Geiss Fellowship (JGF). With this fellowship ISSI honors the memory of Johannes Geiss, the founder of ISSI, and his contributions to the space sciences.

The fellowship was established in 2015 to attract internationally renowned scientists to make a demonstrable contribution to the ISSI mission by pursuing ambitious independent research, in any of the disciplines that are part of ISSI’s core mission: astronomy & astrophysics, astrobiology, plasma physics, solar physics, solar system science, Earth sciences from space.

The Johannes Geiss Fellow is expected to participate in ISSI activities and to collaborate with ISSI’s scientific staff and visitors, as well as with research institutes in Switzerland and neighboring countries. The Johannes Geiss Fellow is invited to give public lectures in close collaboration with the Pro ISSI Association.

The JGF provides a stipend covering travel costs and living expenses for a stay at ISSI in Bern of up to 6 months. ISSI can host fellows either for a single extended visit (e.g., during a sabbatical) or for several shorter duration stays.

Complete Call Johannes Geiss Fellowship 2024 (pdf) >>

All applications must be received by ISSI no later than October 3, 2023.

Online Submission Form >>


The Relic Galaxy NGC 1277 Lacks Dark Matter

Report from the Team members #505 “The Metal-THINGS Survey of Nearby Galaxies” led by Maritza A. Lara-Lopez

The standard cosmological model states that massive galaxies contain a large fraction of dark matter. Dark matter is a transparent substance that does not interact through regular baryonic matter and is only detected through its gravitational pull over the stars and the gas.

Image of the relic galaxy NGC 1277. The small blue galaxy in the lower half of the image is close to NGC 1277 in projection only. (Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Beasley)

NGC 1277 is known as the prototype of a relic galaxy, that is a galaxy that has not accreted other galaxies since it formed. Relic galaxies are extremely rare and are the untouched remains of the giant galaxies that populated the early Universe. Since relic galaxies are very important to understand the conditions in the early stages of the Universe, we observed NGC 1277 using an integral field spectrograph. The information encoded in the spectra allowed us to build kinematic maps from which the mass distribution in the inner 6 kpc (20000 light years) of the galaxy was inferred. We discovered that the mass distribution of mass in NGC 1277 corresponds to that of stars, and we placed an upper limit of 5% to the fraction of dark matter that could exist within the probed radius. Our result is compatible with no dark matter at all in NGC 1277.


Cosmological simulations based on the standard model predict that for galaxies with the mass of NGC 1277 we should have found a dark matter mass fraction of at least 10% and perhaps of up to 70%. The lack of agreement between the observations and the expectation constitutes a mystery. We proposed two possible explanations for the fact that NGC 1277 lacks dark matter. The first one is that dark matter was stripped by interactions between NGC 1277 and the gravitational field of the cluster of galaxies to which it belongs. The second possibility is that dark matter was expelled from the galaxy when it formed through the merger of small proto-galactic bodies. None of these explanations is fully satisfactory, so the riddle of the formation of the galaxy lacking dark matter remains unsolved.

References (Open Access): Comerón, S., I. Trujillo, M. Cappellari et al, The massive relic galaxy NGC 1277 is dark matter deficient. From dynamical models of integral-field stellar kinematics out to five effective radii, Astron. Astrophys., Volume 675, A 143, July 2023,

Press Release (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias) >>

Rumi Nakamura and Geraint Jones appointed as ISSI Discipline Scientists

ISSI is pleased to announce that Dr. Rumi Nakamura and Prof. Geraint Jones have been appointed as Discipline Scientists as of 1st July 2023. We welcome two outstanding additions to the ISSI Team: Plasma Discipline Scientist Dr. Rumi Nakamura, and Planetary Discipline Scientist Prof. Geraint Jones. Not only Discipline Scientists provide scientific expertise that is complementary to the current ISSI portfolio, but, most important, they are ISSI Ambassadors with their unique communities. As such, they will  channel ideas and develop scientific initiatives that will best  serve their community, while at the same time explore ways to identify how best ISSI can advance  the scientific discourse in their respective fields.


Rumi Nakamura

Rumi Nakamura did her PHD research on “Aurora dynamics and particle injection associated with magnetospheric substorms” at the University Tokyo in Japan. She is currently a group leader at Space Research Institute (IWF), Austrian Academy of Sciences and Lecturer at University of Graz in Austria. Her research interest are space plasma physics; plasma transport and acceleration in the magnetosphere, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, solar wind magnetosphere interaction, substorm and storm dynamics.  She participated in a number of ESA and NASA space plasma physics missions such as Cluster, DoubleStar, THEMIS as a Co-Investigator and is currently leading the Active Spacecraft Potential Control (ASPOC) instrument for Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.




Geraint Jones

Geraint Jones is Professor of Planetary Science at the UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics and is head of MSSL’s Planetary Science Group in the UK. Geraint Jones’ primarily research interests are outer planet systems and cometary science. He has been a member of three different instrument teams on the Cassini-Huygens mission, and is a member of two JUICE teams. His interest in cometary science have concentrated on interactions between comets and the solar wind, as well as modelling the large-scale structure of dust tails. Topics of particular interest include the behaviour of comets near the Sun, and serendipitous comet tail crossings, of which he has found several examples. Geraint led the proposal to ESA for the Comet Interceptor mission to an undiscovered long-period comet. This project adopted by the agency in 2022, and is planned to launch in 2029. He has been appointed as an interdisciplinary scientist on the mission. 


edited by Andrea Fischer

JWST Opens New Scientific and Collaborative Avenues at ISSI

Last July scientists and journalists gathered at ISSI to celebrate the unveiling of the first JWST images and spectra. On this occasion Willy Benz, the new chair of ISSI’s BoT, anticipated that JWST would be an observatory that everyone will want to use. The ISSI community is certainly no exception in this respect, with at least two ISSI International Teams securing JWST observing time this spring.

Among these was ISSI Team #562 “First Light at Cosmic Dawn: Exploiting the James Webb Space Telescope Revolution”, composed of astrophysicists and computer scientists, who are working on one of the core science goals of JWST: finding the first stars and galaxies in the Universe. Discussions on the insights from the initial months of JWST data during their first meeting led Team #562 and their collaborators to submit three proposals that were awarded 153 hours of observing time with three complementary JWST observing modes.

The first survey (GO-4111; PI Wren Suess) titled “Medium bands, Mega Science: Spatially-resolved R~15 spectrophotometry of 50,000 sources at z=0.3-12” is a NIRCam imaging program that leverages the power of medium-band filters combined with cosmological lensing of the Abell2744 cluster/UNCOVER field to efficiently map both stellar continuum and nebular line emission from ionised gas for large, unbiased galaxy samples. By simultaneously probing multiple emission lines the JWST data will measure star formation and dust obscuration and chart the growth of galaxies across >10 Gyrs of cosmic history.

GOODS-S field (NIRCam image) Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, B. Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), B. Johnson (Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian), S. Tacchella (University of Cambridge, M. Rieke (Univ. of Arizona), D. Eisenstein (Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian), A. Pagan (STScI)

The second program obtains spectroscopy with the NIRSpec instrument (GO-4233; PIs de Graaff & Brammer) over existing, public JWST fields: “A complete census of the rare, extreme and red: A NIRCam-selected extragalactic community survey with JWST/NIRSpec”. The main goal is to obtain detailed, spectroscopic information for newly identified galaxies from JWST images to reveal their nature, and doing this at high completeness.

The final program is a combination of the previous two. GO-3516 (PIs Matthee & Naidu) uses slitless spectroscopy at ~3-4 micron over the same galaxy cluster as the first program in order to search for faint, metal-poor emission line sources. The title of this program summarizes its goals: “All the Little Things: Pop III Signatures & the Ionizing Photon Budget of Dwarf Galaxies in the Epoch of Reionization”.

With more than an 8:1 oversubscription rate for proposals in these categories, the successes of ISSI Team #562 are particularly noteworthy. Speaking on behalf of their team members team leaders Pascal Oesch and Michael Maseda highlighted: “The ISSI team meeting was instrumental in putting these successful proposals together, and we are very thankful to the whole ISSI team for providing us with this opportunity.” ISSI is particularly pleased that the first of these three proposals is led by early-career researcher (ECR) Wren Suess, whose participation to the ISSI Team meeting was enabled by ISSI’s dedicated ECR funding line.

Webb NIRCam composite image of Jupiter from three filters – F360M (red), F212N (yellow-green), and F150W2 (cyan) – and alignment due to the planet’s rotation. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt.

Freshly approved ISSI Team #23-592 “Jupiter’s non-auroral ionosphere” got off to a flying start of its activities with the award of 22 hours with JWST for project GO-3665 (PIs Stallard & Melin). Studying Jupiter’s equatorial ionosphere in more detail with JWST will further the understanding of energy exchange at the top of the atmosphere, by providing improved constraints for ionospheric models. Atmospheric loss occurs only within this upper region, and so characterising the process on Jupiter provides insight into atmospheric erosion and ultimately thresholds the long term evolution of planets both within and outside our own Solar system.

Determining the vertical structure in the ionosphere away from the bright aurora requires a combination of JWST spectral imaging, utilising the NIRSpec instrument’s integral field spectroscopy mode, and spacecraft occultations of the radio signal from Earth. Via JWST project GO-3665, ISSI Team #23-592 plans to measure the ionospheric structure with JWST simultaneously with the first Juno radio occultations of the Jupiter ionosphere on Sep. 7.


In its first year of science operations, JWST has already demonstrated that it is capable of exceeding expectations and making breakthrough observations in many fields of astrophysics.

Looking ahead to the near future, in March 2024 ISSI will organise a workshop on “The chronology of the 1st billion years”. Outlining her expectations for this workshop, ISSI Executive Director and workshop convenor Antonella Nota, says: “JWST was designed to shed (IR) light on what happened in the early stages of the Universe. Now that most observations from the first JWST cycle have been completed, the time is ripe to convene at ISSI all the cosmology experts with early JWST data, to discuss and distill our current understanding of the formation and early evolution of the first stars and galaxies. At ISSI, we felt that this topic was so important that we are dedicating to it our very first Breakthrough Workshop, a workshop that is aimed at addressing one big question in science” Antonella Nota adds: “ISSI is the perfect place to hold such important conversations, by offering a neutral and welcoming environment, and advancing science – one big question at a time.

The ISSI staff look forward to hosting this workshop and to many further exciting JWST results from the ISSI community.

edited by Mark Sargent