Audrey Chatain

Audrey Chatain

Oraingo lanpostua / Puesto actual

Postdoctoral researcher, working on the atmospheres of planets.

Nire Europako proiektua / Mi proyecto europeo

TLALOC. My research project is to study the formation of clouds on Titan. Titan is a very special place in the Solar System, the only one outside the Earth where we can observe seas, lakes, rivers and rain. However, it is very cold at its surface (-180°C) so the liquid is not water like on Earth, but methane! Methane then induces a complex methanological cycle on Titan, similar to the hydrological cycle on Earth. My objective is to understand how it works and to investigate the similarities and differences with the Earth. For this purpose, I am doing atmospheric modelling, which I try to develop based on spacecraft and telescope observations of Titan’s clouds.

Formakuntza eta ikerketa-ibilbidea/Formación académica y trayectoria investigadora

I studied in France where I first did a ‘Grande École’ named ‘École Normale Supérieure de Cachan’ where I studied fundamental physics. Afterwards, I specialised in planetary science with a Master and a PhD. During my PhD, I studied how complex organic grains form in quantity in the upper atmosphere of Titan, the biggest moon of Saturn. For this I performed laboratory experiments and analysed data from the NASA spacecraft Cassini. After my PhD, I joined the team of the future mission to Titan Dragonfly and analysed first prototypes of its antennas to measure the electric field. Later, I also joined the team of the InSight mission at the surface of Mars. I used its meteorological sensors to study and find the origin of the atmospheric turbulence observed at different seasons on Mars. I am now starting a new project funded by Europe to investigate closely the formation of clouds and storms on Titan, in particular to help the future Dragonfly helicopter that will be flying in the atmosphere of Titan in automatic mode.

Ikerketan aritzeko motibazioa/Mi motivación para dedicarme a la investigación

I have always been curious about anything related to astronomy and meteorology. When I was 14 years old we had to choose a profession for an observational internship, so I visited a research laboratory in planetary science, a field where there are both planets and meteorology. Since then, I have directed my studies to become researcher in planetary science. I am really enthusiastic to investigate the exotic weather on other planets!

Aritzen naizen taldea eta ikerketa-lerroak/Grupo y líneas de investigación que desarrollo

The project I have just started is in collaboration within 3 different laboratories. I work with the planetary science groups of the Basque Country University (UPV/EHU) in Spain, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in the USA and of Sorbonne University (LMD) in France. The three laboratories are famous for developing top of the range meteorological models for planets. I compare all of these models and adapt them to Titan conditions with the objective to understand its weather, with a particular focus on the formation of clouds and the variations induced by seasons.

Nire ikerketa-ibilbidean aipatzen dut…/En mi trayectoria investigadora destaco…

Since several years now I have been working with people all around the world, which is fundamental for research. I participated to many online meetings and conferences, which are very efficient to exchange ideas between specialists in one given research fields and advance our projects. Dragonfly and InSight being American missions, I often had to stay wake late in the night to participate to team meetings! For my Titan weather project, I will stay for long periods in the USA, in Spain and in France, which is a wonderful opportunity to strength my international collaborations.

Etorkizunari begira/Mirando al futuro

My dream is to be part of a mission exploring a place with a meteorological system very different from the Earth, so that everything has to be rediscovered again. Titan is the perfect place to do so, and my wish is to continue being part of the Dragonfly team during the whole the mission. Besides, this could keep me busy for a while, as Dragonfly is planned to launch in 2027, arrive to Titan in 2034 and explore its surface for several years!