The Institute of Planetary Research conducts fundamental scientific research to understand the formation and evolution of planets. One of the central tasks of planetary research and astronomy is to address the question of whether life in the Solar System exists only on Earth or also on other celestial bodies and exoplanets – planets that orbit other stars.
To answer this question, the Institute, in cooperation with other research organisations and industry, develops scientific instruments for European and international space missions, and evaluates the data that they acquire. The focus is on the development of cameras, spectrometers, laser altimeters and radiometers for the characterisation of planets and their moons, as well as asteroids and comets in the Solar System. The Institute is also involved in the search for and study of extrasolar planets.
Further focal points of the Institute are the provision of laboratory infrastructure for spectral surface characterisation, mineral sample analysis and astrobiological studies, numerical simulation models for the development and characterisation of planetary interiors and atmospheres, and the mapping of celestial bodies.