Ulrich Christensen is a geophysicist who is known for his work on the internal dynamics of the Earth and other planets in the solar system. Using mainly numerical simulations he contributed to the understanding of slow convective motions in the Earth?s mantle and the generation of magnetic fields in liquid and electrically conducting cores of planets by a dynamo process. Major contributions concern the role of solid-solid phase transitions in mantle convection and the laws that govern the strength of the magnetic field generated by a planetary dynamo. He was born in Peine, Germany, and graduated in physics from the Technical University of Braunschweig in 1980. After several postdoctoral and research positions at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, the Arizona State University, and the University of Karlsruhe he was appointed Professor for Geophysics at the University of Göttingen in 1992. In 2002 he became director of the department Planets and Comets at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau (later relocated to Göttingen). Since 2020 he is an emeritus scientist at the MPS. He is a member of the German National Academy Leopoldina and of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Ulrich Christensen is currently leading an emeritus research group at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen. The group concentrates on dynamo processes in solar system planets, such as in the giant gas planets, in Mercury and the Jovian moon Ganymede. Using theory and numerical simulations they study the dynamics of vigorous jet streams in the outer envelopes of the gas planets, their interaction with the planetary magnetic field, and the gravity perturbation associated with the jets. In addition, Christensen and coworkers are involved in analyzing the internal structure of Mars using the recordings of the seismometer deployed by the NASA InSight mission. Furthermore, they prepare for capitalizing on the upcoming measurements by the laser altimeter, magnetometer, and X-ray spectrometer on board of the ESA mission Bepi Colombo to Mercury in order to improve our understanding of the internal structure of that planet.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 16: Geophysics