Planet and moon interiors

The interior of moons and planets is they key to understand their formation and evolution. It is the place where most heat is generated and it might be the place where we find favorable conditions for life, such as the sub-surface oceans in the icy moons.

This theme studies the large-scale structure of the planets and moons, and how this influences their rotation, deformation and heat generation. Simulations are done with analytical and numerical models such as finite-element models that are developed within the group. There is a clear link with the theme of solar system dynamics through the use of gravity observations and the of effect tidal dissipation on orbital evolution. The models we develop link to material properties and surface observations from collaborators and the larger scientific community. The theme has developed from expertise in solid Earth modelling in the department. That research topic continues in the form of simulation of postglacial rebound in areas with large changes in Earth structure, such as Antarctica and North-America.


Former PhD student Haiyang Hu developed a new model for polar wander for tidally deformed moons. This model has been extended for surface loading of the Earth in the MSc thesis of Maaike Weerdesteijn.

Dissipation and sub-surface oceans

PhD candidate Teresa Steinke studied how tidal dissipation and heat transfer interact to produce the high heatflow observed for Jupiter’s moon Io. PhD candidate Marc Rovira Navarro investigates if dissipation in the fluid oceans of icy moons can generate enough heat to maintain fluid oceans. A layman article (in Dutch) on sub-surface oceans: ‘Ondergrondse oceanen op ijsmanen (Natuurkundige Voordrachten 2020-2021, nieuwe reeks no. 99, uitgave Koninklijke Mij voor Natuurkunde ‘Diligentia’).

Surface loading of the Earth

PhD project by Bas Blank led to a higher-resolution model for postglacial rebound with 3D viscosity. This model is used in the PhD project of Caroline van Calcar to study the effect of bedrock deformation on ice dynamics in Antarctica. The PhD project of Jesse Reusen investigates the use of gravity for determining 3D viscosity in the Earth.

Our people exploring interiors:

Prof. dr. Bert Vermeersen

Dr. Wouter van der Wal

Dr. Bart Root

Teresa Steinke, MSc

ir. Marc Rovira-Navarro

ir. Bas Blank

Vivian Adhiambo Otieno, MSc

ir. Caroline van Calcar