Planetary Atmospheres & Magnetospheres

Over the past four decades, the increase in the volume of in situ measurements from the atmospheres and space environments of solar system planets and moons has been astounding. These observations have highlighted the vastly different environmental conditions just for the Earthlike planets ranging from Mercury resembling our moon without any atmosphere, to Venus which with its dense atmosphere is an example of runaway greenhouse effect, and Mars whose tenuous atmosphere might resemble that of the Earth in the distant future. Furthermore, the gas giants and their moons host highly intriguing environments and interactions, which may indicate the existence of liquid water and hence conditions for life to form.

In Climate & Space, we use these measurements to characterize the structure and dynamics of the atmospheric environments and to draw comparisons between the various environments. We study the physical, chemical, meteorological, and astrobiological processes of planets, satellites, and comets, and investigate the underlying processes that maintain the observed atmospheric structures and drive their variations over various time ranges from solar cycle to seasonal and diurnal scales. In particular, we focus on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, moons including Io, Enceladus and Titan, and comets. We compare and contrast how the various magnetospheres respond to their space environment, gaining understanding of  magnetospheric dynamics and formation, and auroral phenomena. The research activities comprise building instruments, taking part in NASA and international space missions, as well as using state-of-the-art numerical modeling tools to interpret and give context to the sparse space observations. See our Space Missions page for a list of missions we are and have been part of.