Planetary Geology, Geophys & Geochem Lab

Stefano Bertone

(Assistant Research Scientist)

Stefano Bertone's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.9910
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Missions & Projects

Brief Bio

My main research topics are planetary science (the study of Solar System bodies' from core to crust) and relativistic astrometry (an accurate mapping of positions and distance of stars in our galaxy). My main expertise is the modeling and analysis of measurements produced by a variety of techniques (including radioscience, altimetry, imagery and astrometry) and their use to recover the interior structure and surface properties of planetary bodies.

In particular, I have worked extensively in the analysis of the MESSENGER, GRAIL, and LRO datasets, to better understand the history and processes operating at Mercury and the Moon, and to prepare for their future human (NASA Artemis) and robotic exploration. Other research topics include the relativistic modeling of light propagation, with particular attention to deep space navigation, tests of General Relativity and high precision global astrometry (ESA Gaia mission).

I maintain active collaborations with research groups in multiple countries where I have worked and lived (Italy, France, Switzerland, USA), and I enjoy developing my research and fostering scientific exchanges in a rich multi-national and cultural environment.

Research Interests

High-resolution modeling of planetary topography

Solar System: Solar System

Development of Shape-from-Shading methods and tools for high resolution topography recovery from orbital images. Application to research and operations at the Moon and Mercury.

Modeling of environmental conditions on planetary surfaces

Solar System: Planetary surfaces

Development of efficient and accurate illumination and thermal models for the planetary surfaces of airless bodies. Application to the search and characterization of volatiles in planetary polar regions.

Remote sensing data analysis for planetary geodesy

Solar System: Remote Sensing

Combined analysis of remote sensing data from planetary orbiters (radioscience, altimetry, imagery, astrometry) for orbit determination, geodesy, and surface science. Development of open tools for planetary science.


Visiting Assistant Research Scientist

UMD / CRESST / NASA GSFC - Greenbelt, MD

October 2020 - Present

Recovery of high-resolution topography of planetary bodies from camera and laser altimetry data. Modeling of light propagation and surfaces radiance for applications in planetary science and in support of lunar exploration. Analysis of tracking data (laser, radio, images) to probe the interior and surfaces of Solar System bodies.


Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) - Turin, Italy

July 2022 - Present

(on leave)

Visiting researcher

NASA GSFC / UMBC - Greenbelt, MD, USA

August 2018 - September 2020

Recovery of Mercury orientation and tides through the analysis of crossovers by the Mercury Laser Altimeter onboard MESSENGER. Analysis of simulation scenarios for the recovery of Solar System dynamics and Sun parameters via the accurate measurements of inter-planetary links.

Postdoctoral researcher

Astronomical Institute, University of Bern (AIUB) - Switzerland

2013 - 2018

Orbit determination and planetary geodesy in the framework of the NASA GRAIL and ESA BepiColombo missions. Development of planetary activities within the Bernese GNSS Software and of international collaborations in planetary geodesy.

Teaching Experience

Students supervision

12/24-Present, B.Sc. thesis supervision of Marco Grisolia from the Polytechnic University of Turin (Italy) on "Validation of radioscience derived orbits by crossovers analyses of the Mercury Laser Altimeter".

12/19–03/24, Ph.D. co-supervision of William Desprats at the Astronomical Institute (UniBern, CH) on "Callisto geodesy: A simulation study to support further space missions to the Jovian system" (PI: D. Arnold). Defended on 08-Mar-2024.

04/16–01/20, Ph.D. co-supervision of Alireza Hosseini at the Space Research & Planetary Sciences (WP) of UniBern (CH) on "BepiColombo Laser Altimeter (BELA) Performance Evaluation: From Laboratory Tests to Simulations of Flight Observations" (with Prof. N. Thomas). Defended on 31-Jan-2020.

09/17–07/18, M.Sc. thesis supervision of Jayraj Inamdar (TU Delft, the Netherlands) at the Astronomical Institute, University of Bern (CH) about the recovery of Venus gravity field using data from historical NASA and ESA missions to the planet (with Prof. A. Jäggi and Prof. P. Visser).

06/17–08/17, M.Sc. student internship supervision of William Desprats (SUPAERO, Toulouse, France) at the Astronomical Institute (UniBern, CH) about orbit simulations and gravity field recovery for the preparation of the Joint Europa Mission.

University teaching

09/14–04/18, Teaching assistant at Master level. Faculty of Physics, University of Bern, Switzerland. Teaching assistant and co-lecturer for Numerical Methods for Physics, lectures for Astrodynamics II (Prof. Adrian Jäggi).

10/10–09/13, Teaching Assistant. University Paris 6 - UPMC, France. Teaching of mathematics and physics at Bachelor level, teaching and organisation in the European project EU - Hands On Universe for the diffusion of astronomy in high school education.


French qualification for teaching at University level ("Qualification aux fonctions de Maître de Conférences", validity 11-Feb-2017 - 31-Dec-2025);


  • Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Observatoire de Paris (SYRTE)/Università di Torino (INAF-OATo), France/Italy, Fall 2013. Thesis title: "From Time Transfer functions to a model for relativistic astrometry in the Gaia era".
  • M.Sc., Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Technologies, Université Paris 6 UPMC/Observatoire de Paris, France, Summer 2010.
  • B.Sc in Physics, Universita` degli Studi di Torino, Italia, Fall 2007.

Professional Societies

International Astronomical Union

2018 - Present

American Geophysical Union

2014 - Present


2023 - Present

Professional Service

Reviewer for Nature Astronomy, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Planetary and Space Science, Classical and Quantum Gravity, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, European Journal of Physics, Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science, Journal of Open Source Software, and MDPI Geosciences;

Member of review panels and external reviewer for the NASA ROSES SSW and NFDAP programs, and for the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG);

Member of the ESA Gaia DPAC - Coordination Unit 3: Core Data Processing;

SOC Member of the COSPAR-21-PSD.1: Satellite Dynamics - new Developments and Challenges for Earth and Solar System Sciences;

Convener and chair for the “At the Edge of Planetary Geodesy” session at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2017.


Lancelot M. Berkeley - New York Community Trust Prize for Meritorious Work in Astronomy (The Gaia Collaboration), 2023


Understanding the Heterogeneity of Mercury's Volatile-Bearing South Polar Deposits

ROSES Discovery Data Analysis Program - NASA (NNH22ZDA001N-DDAP) - Awarded: 2023-06-15

Dates:  - 

From Planet-wise Multi-instrument Geodesy to a Global Vision on Solar System Dynamics

SNSF - Advanced Postdoc Mobility - Swiss National Science Foundation - Awarded: 2017-12-12

Dates:  - 

Amount 110,000 $

Selected Publications


2023. "Fast hierarchical low-rank view factor matrices for thermal irradiance on planetary surfaces." Journal Of Computational Physics X 17 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.jcpx.2023.100130] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Investigating the Stability and Distribution of Surface Ice in Mercury's Northernmost Craters." The Planetary Science Journal 4 107 [Full Text] [10.3847/PSJ/acd68d] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Highly resolved topography and illumination at Mercury’s South Pole from MESSENGER MDIS-NAC." The Planetary Science Journal 4 (21): [Full Text] [10.3847/PSJ/acaddb] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Influence of low orbit design and strategies for gravity field recovery of Europa." Planetary and Space Science 226 105631 [10.1016/j.pss.2022.105631] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "New Constraints on the Volatile Deposit in Mercury’s North Polar Crater, Prokofiev." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (8): 188 [10.3847/psj/ac7d5a] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Evaluation of Recent Measurements of Mercury’s Moments of Inertia and Tides Using a Comprehensive Markov Chain Monte Carlo Method." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (2): 37 [10.3847/psj/ac4bb8] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Assessing reduced-dynamic parametrizations for GRAIL orbit determination and the recovery of independent lunar gravity field solutions." Earth and Space Science 8 (6): [Full Text] [10.1029/2020EA001454] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Gaia Early Data Release 3. The astrometric solution." Astronomy & Astrophysics 649 A2 [10.1051/0004-6361/202039709] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Deriving Mercury geodetic parameters with altimetric crossovers from the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA)." Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets 126 (4): e2020JE006683 [Full Text] [10.1029/2020JE006683] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Comprehensive in-orbit performance evaluation of the BepiColombo Laser Altimeter (BELA)." Planetary and Space Science 195 105088 [10.1016/j.pss.2020.105088] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "A new test of gravitational redshift using Galileo satellites: The GREAT experiment." Comptes Rendus Physique 20 (3): 176-182 [10.1016/j.crhy.2019.04.002] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gravitational Redshift Test Using Eccentric Galileo Satellites." Physical Review Letters 121 (23): 231101 [10.1103/physrevlett.121.231101] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. Kinematics of globular clusters and dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A12 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832698] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. Mapping the Milky Way disc kinematics." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A11 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832865] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. Observational Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A10 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832843] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. Observations of solar system objects." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A13 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832900] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. Summary of the contents and survey properties." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A1 [10.1051/0004-6361/201833051] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Gaia Data Release 2. The astrometric solution." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A2 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832727] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Impact analysis of the transponder time delay on radio-tracking observables." Advances in Space Research 61 (1): 89-96 [10.1016/j.asr.2017.09.003] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Application of time transfer functions to Gaia’s global astrometry." Astronomy & Astrophysics 608 A83 [10.1051/0004-6361/201731654] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Test of the gravitational redshift with stable clocks in eccentric orbits: application to Galileo satellites 5 and 6." Classical and Quantum Gravity 32 (23): 232003 [10.1088/0264-9381/32/23/232003] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "GRAIL gravity field determination using the Celestial Mechanics Approach." Icarus 261 182-192 [10.1016/j.icarus.2015.08.015] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Light propagation in the field of a moving axisymmetric body: Theory and applications to the Juno mission." Physical Review D 90 (8): 084020 [10.1103/physrevd.90.084020] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Relativistic formulation of coordinate light time, Doppler, and astrometric observables up to the second post-Minkowskian order." Physical Review D 89 (6): 064045 [10.1103/physrevd.89.064045] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "Astrometric tests of General Relativity in the Solar System: mathematical and computational scenarios." Journal of Physics: Conference Series 490 012241 [10.1088/1742-6596/490/1/012241] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Time transfer functions as a way to validate light propagation solutions for space astrometry." Classical and Quantum Gravity 31 (1): 015021 [10.1088/0264-9381/31/1/015021] [Journal Article/Letter]

Selected Public Outreach

Relativistic astrometric models in comparison for Gaia

July 2019 - July 2019

Invited lecturer at the "International School of Space Sciences" about "Astrometry For Astrophysics" in l’Aquila, Italy. Lecture and preparation/supervision of hands-on activity.

50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, National Mall

August 2019 - August 2019

Volunteering work at the Moon Tours (Moon trek + LRO) tent using lunar topographic data, 3D prints of the lunar surface and lunar simulant samples.