nexFrontier: Exoplanets – Fascinating Worlds Beyond our Solar System

Join us for the fourth edition of the nexFrontier series to hear from experts and professors from the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, the Chinese Society of Space Research (CSSR), and Sun Yat-sen University about the latest developments in exoplanet research, as well as the fascinating worlds beyond our Solar System.

By Guido Schwarz, Exhibition_19, Blick in den Bereich Space Race

Having been captivated by the idea of distant worlds – and potentially even life – existing somewhere beyond our Solar System for millennia, humankind currently finds itself in a very exciting time for exoplanet research.

Since the discovery of the first planets beyond our Solar System, also known as “exoplanets”, in 1992 by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail, as well as the seminal discovery of “51 Pegasi” – the first confirmed exoplanet to be in orbit around a Sun-like star – by Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz in 1995, researchers have detected thousands of these weird and wonderful worlds, thereby not only confirming their existence beyond any doubt but also revealing a plethora of fascinating insights regarding the properties of individual planets, their atmospheres, as well as the planetary systems in which they are located.

Driven by increasingly powerful ground- and space-based telescopes, as well as sophisticated observational techniques, the field has subsequently grown considerably over the past two decades and is currently transitioning from an era of discovery to one of physical and chemical characterization. In order to respond to this shift, the Swiss National Science Foundation, therefore, created the NCCR PlanetS in 2014, which brings together prominent researchers from the Universities of Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, as well as of ETH Zurich and EPFL, to the study of the origin, evolution, and characterization of planets.

Composed of various research projects and platforms, the NCCR not only conducts cutting-edge research but also takes a leading role in a vast range of activities connected to planetary sciences, such as the coordination of the CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) mission, as well as carries out a large, multi-regional education and outreach program.

In the fourth edition of the nexFrontier webinar series, Prof. Dr. Nicolas Thomas will first introduce the NCCR PlanetS and their current activities, as well as provide an overview of the high precision space instruments that they developed over the years. This will be followed by a stimulating presentation by Prof. Dr. Ji Wu of a powerful new method called “astrometry”, which can be used to precisely identify exoplanets, especially from nearby stars. Then, Prof. Dr. Monika Lendl from the University of Geneva will offer a glimpse into the fascinating discoveries made by today’s cutting-edge space- and ground-based telescopes – with a particular focus on the CHEOPS space mission– on the properties of exoplanets. Finally, Prof. Dr. Shang-Fei Liu from Sun Yat-sen University will conclude the webinar by providing a brief outline of how planets are assembled, as well as of the evolution of planetary systems.

Event Rundown

*China Time


Nils Feldmann, Project Coordinator – Science Outreach & Diplomacy, Swissnex in China



Prof. Dr. Nicolas Thomas, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Bern, Principal Investigator of the Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), member of the NCCR PlanetS

Space Instrumentation Development Within the PlanetS Domains


Prof. Dr. Ji Wu, President of the Chinese Society of Space Research (CSSR), Former Director General of the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)

Habitable Exoplanet Search by Astrometry


Prof. Dr. Monika Lendl, Astrophysicist and Assistant Professor at the University of Geneva, member of the NCCR PlanetS

Strange New Worlds: Planets Beyond the Solar System


Prof. Dr. Shang-Fei Liu, Associate Professor at the School of Physics and Astronomy and Chinese Space Station Telescope Center for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area of Sun Yat-sen University

A Brief History of Planetary Systems




In collaboration with

NCCR PlanetS

Established by the Swiss National Science Foundation in June 2014, the NCCR PlanetS brings together researchers from the Universities of Bern (Leading House), Geneva (co-Leading House), and Zürich, as well as of ETH Zurich and EPFL, to contribute to a better understanding of planets by combining astronomical observations, measurements of solar system bodies using spacecraft, laboratory work and theoretical modelling. In addition to scientific research, the NCCR PlanetS also assumes a coordinating role in a vast range of activities connected to planetary sciences, as well as carries out a large multi-regional education and outreach program. In doing so, it ultimately aims to lay the foundations of a Swiss Institute of Planetary Sciences (SIPS), which will carry on these activities beyond the lifetime of the NCCR.




nexFrontier is the latest webinar series at Swissnex in China, which spotlights cutting-edge research in Switzerland and China. With a particular focus on the Swiss National Centers of Competence in Research (NCCRs) and top-class research labs in China, this series hopes to introduce the most pioneering research advancements in Switzerland and China to an enthusiastic audience, as well as promotes potential exchanges and collaborations between the two labs or institutions.

  • PlanetS
  • nexFrontier