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Planetology and Space Sciences

Planetology and Space Sciences

The planetary and space sciences group is focussed on deciphering the internal structure and geologic evolution of the terrestrial planets and moons. Our research involves geophysical and geodynamical studies of the terrestrial planets, seismic investigations of the Moon and Mars, remote-sensing investigations of terrestrial bodies, and the coupling of seismic waves with the atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars.

Most of the research of our team is made possible by our participation in several NASA and ESA related space missions. Hardware contributions include the seismometer that was flown to Mars as part of NASA’s InSight mission and a seismometer that will be flown to the farside of the Moon in 2025 as part of NASA’s Farside Seismic Suite. Scientific contributions to upcoming missions include Lunar Vertex that will investigate one of the strongest magnetic anomalies on the surface of the Moon in 2024, BepiColombo that will arrive at Mercury in late 2025, Psyche that will study an iron-rich asteroid in 2029, JUICE that will start its investigations of the moons of Jupiter in 2031, and Dragonfly that will make seismic measurements on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2034. We also have key scientific roles in Earth-based (Keck, VLT, Gemini, IRTF) and space (JWST) telescopic observational campaigns, and are involved in the definition of future Earth observation missions.

Our research laboratory is located in the building Lamarck at the Campus des Grandes Moulins (Université Paris Cité).

Research themes

Our group uses multiple techniques to investigate the subsurface structure and internal dynamics of the terrestrial planets, moons, and asteroids. Gravity and topography data provide us with information about the crust and the cold lithosphere of a planet. Analyses of seismic data provide key constraints on the size of a planet’s core, the thickness of the crust, and the temperature and composition of the mantle. The investigation of magnetic anomalies provides us with information regarding the timing and duration of planetary dynamos. We also perform fluid dynamical modelling on a wide range of spatial and time scales to reconstruct the thermal and chemical histories of terrrestrial bodies and to better interpret data collected by space missions. Together, these analyses help us elucidate the processes involved with the initial differentiation of the planets, the modification of planetary crusts by impact cratering, the duration and style of volcanism, the genesis and evolution of their atmospheres, and the energy sources that power dynamos in their cores.

Our technical team designed the very broad band seismometer that was installed on the surface of Mars in late 2018. Together with the InSight National Observatory Service, hundreds of marsquakes have been detected, and the analysis of a dozen of the largest events has elucidated fundamental aspects of the planet, including the core size and crustal thickness. The same team is contributing to the development of the seismometer that will be flown to the farside of the Moon in 2025 as part of NASA’s Farside Seismic Suite. We are currently developing next generation optical very broad band seismometers for future planetary missions, and are developing strategies for using combined Apollo-era and modern seismic measurements to elucidate the interior structure of the Moon.

Our research group conducts laboratory experiments and develops physical models of scattering, absorption and emission of solar and thermal infrared radiation from planetary surfaces and atmospheres. These studies make it possible to estimate the properties of atmospheric gases and aerosols, as well as the mineralogical composition, moisture and multiscale roughness of surfaces from remote sensing observations. We use a wide variety of measurements from Earth observation satellites (such as Pleiades, VENµS, and Sentinel) and planetary missions and observatories (such as Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the James Webb Space Telescope). These studies help to elucidate the processes that govern the formation and evolution of planetary surfaces.

Our research team is also cultivating its expertise in modelling and analysing the dynamics of the terrestrial ionosphere. This work aims to develop a system for the early detection of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic explosions using ionospheric sounding techniques (such as GNSS-TEC and airglow measurements).

How to visit us

Our team is located at the Campus des Grandes Moulins of the Université Paris Cité, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.

Please go to 35 rue Hélène Brion, and once in the lobby of the main entrance, take the elevators on the right to the 6th floor. Exit the elevator and take the corridor to the right. The entrance to our lab will be on the right: The door is locked, so please call your point of contact to let you in. To attend our seminars, please go to room 522 on the 5th floor of the same building.

The closest public transportation stations to us are: Metro 14 (Bibliothèque François Mitterand), RER C (Bibliothèque François Mitterand), Bus 89 or 62 (Porte de France), Tram 3A (Avenue de France).

Read more
InSight Observatory
InSight Observatory
The planetary and space sciences group is focussed on deciphering the internal structure and geologic ev...
Earth and Planetary Interiors
Earth and Planetary Interiors
Study of the structure and internal dynamics of planets and their evolution through geological time.
Study of the primordial processes that led to the formation of the Solar System and the emergence of life on Earth.
Earth System Science
Earth System Science
Measuring, understanding and modelling the functioning of our planet's surface, also called the Critical Zone.