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Planetology and Space Sciences

Planetology and Space Sciences

Our team is involved in the analysis of data from planetary and Earth observation missions, and participates in the development of seismometers for planetary missions. Our planetary science research involves geophysical and geodynamical studies of the terrestrial planets, and remote-sensing investigations of the icy moons and asteroids. We also investigate the coupling between seismic waves and the atmosphere on 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. Our research laboratory is located in the building Lamarck at the Campus des Grandes Moulins (Université Paris Cité).

Space missions and observatories

Our research group is involved in the development of planetary seismometers and has key scientific roles in a number of ongoing an upcoming planetary missions and observation campaigns from Earth-based (Keck, VLT, Gemini, IRTF…) and space telescopes (JWST). 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 2024 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 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. 

Our research group is also involved in the definition of future Earth observation missions, currently under development by CNES: BIODIVERSITY, a hyperspectral satellite with high spatial resolution, TRISHNA, a thermal infrared satellite with high spatial resolution.

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 wide range of space 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 2024 as part of the Farside Seismic Suite. We are currently developing next generation optical very broad band seismometers for future planetary missions, and are developing strategies for using 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 and Earth atmospheres and surfaces. 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 soils, from remote sensing observations. We use a wide variety of measurements from Earth observation satellites (e.g., Pleiades, Venµs, Sentinel) and Solar System missions and observatories (e.g., 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.

The team is also cultivating its expertise in modelling and analysing the dynamics of the ionosphere and aims to develop a system for the early detection of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic explosions by ionospheric sounding (GNSS-TEC, Airglow, etc.)

To visit us:

Our team is located at the Campus des Grandes Moulins of the Université Paris Cité, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
To visit us, please go to 35 rue Hélène Brion and then up to the 6th floor of the A wing of the Lamarck building. To attend our seminars, please go to room 522 on the 5th floor of the Lamarck 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