Jonathan Lunine

Chair, Department of Astronomy


Lunine is interested in how planets form and evolve, what processes maintain and establish habitability, and what kinds of exotic environments (methane lakes, etc.) might host a kind of chemistry sophisticated enough to be called "life".  He pursues these interests through theoretical modeling and participation in spacecraft missions.  He is co-investigator on the Juno mission now in orbit at Jupiter, using data from several instruments on the spacecraft, and on the MISE instrument for the Europa Clipper mission.  He is on the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, focusing on characterization of extrasolar planets and Kuiper Belt objects.  Lunine has contributed to concept studies for a wide range of planetary and exoplanetary missions. Lunine is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has participated in or chaired a number of advisory and strategic planning committees for the Academy and for NASA.

Research Focus

Planetary system formation, evolution of planets, search for life.


Recent papers (* indicates postdoc or student in group):

  • Mousis, O., Ronnet, T. and Lunine, J.I. 2019. Jupiter’s formation in the vicinity of the amorphous ice snowline. Astrophys. J. 875:9 (6pp). 
  • Mastrogiuseppe, M., *Poggiali, V., Hayes, A.G., Lunine, J.I., Seu, R., Mitri, G., Lorenz, R.D. 2019. Deep and methane-rich lakes on Titan. Nature Astronomy 3 535-542. 
  • *Truong, N., Monroe, A.A., Glein, C.R., Anbar, A.D., Lunine, J.I. 2019. Decomposition of amino acids in water with application to in-situ measurements of Enceladus, Europa and other hydrothermally active icy ocean worlds. Icarus 329, 140-147. 
  • *Leitner, M. and Lunine, J.I. 2019. Modeling early Titan’s ocean composition. Icarus 333, 61-70. 
  • Mitri, G., Lunine, J.I., Mastrogiuseppe, M. and *Poggiali, V. 2019. Possible explosion crater origin of small lake basins with raised rims on Titan. Nature Geoscience

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