Athena Coustenis

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Athena Coustenis
Athena Coustenis
A. Coustenis in 2019
Born 1961 (1961)
Residence Paris, France.
Citizenship French, Greek.
Education Pierre and Marie Curie University (MS, PhD), HDR
University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle (MA)
Scientific career
Fields Astrophysics
Planetary science

Athena Coustenis is an astrophysicist specializing in planetology. Dr. Coustenis, a French national, is director of research, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS, French National Center for Scientific Research), at LESIA (Laboratoire d'études spatiales et d'instrumentation en astrophysique), at the Paris Observatory, Meudon[1]. She is involved in several space mission projects for the European Space Agency (ESA) and for NASA. Her focus is on gas giant planets Saturn, Jupiter and their moons, and she is considered a foremost expert on Saturn's Titan (moon).[2]

Early life and education

Born in Athens, Greece, in 1961, Athena Coustenis moved to Paris, France, where she received a master's degree in astrophysics and space techniques at the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), Paris 6, in 1986 and a master's degree in English literature, at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle, in 1987. Dr. Coustenis defended her PhD thesis in astrophysics and space techniques, "Titan's atmosphere from Voyager's infrared observations", at the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), Paris 7, in 1989, where in 1996 she went on to obtain a Habilitation to Direct Research (HDR).[3][4]


Dr. Coustenis worked as senior researcher at DESPA, then at LESIA from 1991 to 2008. From 2008 to the present Athena Coustenis is director of research with CNRS, at LESIA at the Paris Observatory, in Meudon, France. She is involved in several high-level committees of scientific societies, associations and institutions.

Dr. Coustenis is currently the chair[5] of the European Science Foundation Space Science Committee (ESF-ESSC)[6], and hence ex-officio member of several committees within the ESA Advisory Structure, of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, and of COSPAR. She is the President of ESA’s Human Spaceflight and Exploration Science Advisory Committee (HESAC)[7]; Chair of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection[8]; Chair of the Comité d'Evaluation sur la Recherche et l'Exploration Spatiales of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales and Vice-President of the EUROPLANET Society She is also or has been involved in several leadership committees of scientific societies, associations and institutions including the European Geosciences Union (EGU), International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), International Astronomical Union (IAU), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC), Europlanet, International Space Science Institute (ISSI), and the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL)[9].

She is in particular the former president of the IUGG International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) and of the ESA Solar System and Exploration Working Group.


Dr. Coustenis uses ground and space-based observatories to study solar system bodies with emphasis on the satellites of the giant planets Saturn and Jupiter and exoplanets. She focuses on the astrobiological aspects and the search for habitable worlds in the Solar System and beyond. Her research in comparative planetology use the study of climate changes to further the understanding of long-term evolution on our own planet. She was co-investigator of three of the instruments aboard the Cassini/Huygens mission CIRS, HASI, DISR.[10] In recent years she has been leading efforts to define and select future space missions to be undertaken by the European Space Agency and its international partners.[11] She is science Co-Investigator in future missions like JUICE to the Jovian System and ARIEL for exoplanetary spectroscopic studies.


Coustenis, A., Encrenaz, Th., 2013. Life beyond Earth: the search for habitable worlds in the Universe. Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 978-1107026179.[12]

Coustenis, A., Taylor, F., 2008. Titan : Exploring an Earth-like World. World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, Eds. ISBN 978-9812705013.[13]

Coustenis, A., Taylor, F., 1999. Titan, the Earth-like moon. World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, Eds. ISBN 978-9810239213.[14]

Coustenis has published or co-authored over 300 scientific papers, articles and encyclopedia chapters.[15]

Memberships, honors and awards

The NASA Group Achievement Award for the Cassini Programme Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI)

The NASA Group Achievement Award for the Cassini Program Descent Imager Radiometer Spectrometer (DISR)

The NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award for the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI)

The NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award for the Descent Imager Spectrometer radiometer (DISR)

The ESA Award for making an outstanding contribution to the Huygens Probe.[16]

The American Astronomical Society awarded Coustenis in 2014 with the Harold Masursky award.[17]

Member of the Editorial Board of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society[18]

In 2017 elected member, International Academy of Astronautics.[19]

Since January 2018, Associated member of the Royal Academy of Belgium.[20]

Member of the Editorial Board of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society[21]

18101 Coustenis (2000 LF32) is a main-belt asteroid discovered on 5 June 2000 by the Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Search at the Anderson Mesa Station. It was named after Dr Athena Coustenis, of Paris-Meudon Observatory, France, following a suggestion by Prof. M. Fulchignoni.[22]

French order of merit : Legion of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur)[23]


  1. ^ "Invited Authors". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  2. ^ "A Traveller's Guide To The Planets". National Geographic - Videos, TV Shows & Photos - International. Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  3. ^ "Invited Authors". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  4. ^ "Dr. Athena Coustenis: just follow your dreams". Women in Planetary Science: Female Scientists on Careers, Research, Space Science, and Work/Life Balance. 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Analytics, Clarivate. "Athena Coustenis Interview - Special Topic of Planetary Exploration - - Clarivate Analytics". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  11. ^ "Huygens - Landing on Titan". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  12. ^ Coustenis, Athena; Encrenaz, Thérèse (September 2013). "Life beyond Earth: The Search for Habitable Worlds in the Universe". Cambridge Core. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139206921.
  13. ^ Coustenis, Athena; Taylor, Fredric W. Titan. doi:10.1142/6360.
  14. ^ Coustenis, Athena; Taylor, Fred. Titan. doi:10.1142/4142.
  15. ^ "Searches | Harvard University". Harvard University. Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  16. ^ "Invited Authors". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  17. ^ "2014 Prize Recipients | Division for Planetary Sciences". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  18. ^ "Athena Coustenis". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  19. ^ "International Academy of Astronautics". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  20. ^ "Détail". (in French). Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  21. ^ "International Astronomical Union | IAU". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Décret du 13 juillet 2019 portant promotion et nomination, retrieved 2019-07-15
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