Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Jonathan I. Lunine

David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences
Director, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science
Jonathan I.  Lunine
Specialty Areas

Planetary science, Theoretical Astrophysics, Astrobiology

Research Projects

Planetary system formation, evolution of volatile-rich worlds


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 worked with the radar and other instruments on Cassini, is co-investigator on the Juno mission now in orbit at Jupiter, 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.

Recent Publications

A rationale for exploring the ocean worlds of the solar system:

  • Lunine, J.I. 2017. Ocean worlds exploration. Acta Astronautica 131, 123-130.

Recent Juno-related papers:

  • Bolton, S.J., Lunine, J.I., Stevenson, D., Connerney, J.E.P., Levin, S., Owen, T.C., Bagenal, F., Gautier, D., Ingersoll, A.P., Orton, G.S., Guillot, T., Hubbard, W., Bloxham, J., Coradini, A., Stephens, S.K., Mokashi, P., Thorne, R., Thorpe, R. 2017. The Juno Mission. Space Science Reviews 213, 5-37. 
  • Ingersoll, A.P., Adumitroaie, V., Allison, M.D., Atrya, S., Bellotti, A.A. Bolton, S.J., Brown, S.T., Gulkis, S., Janssen, M.A., Levin, S.M., Li, C., Li, L., Lunine, J.I., Orton, G.S., Oyafuso, F.A., Steffes, P. 2017. Implications of the ammonia distribution on Jupiter from 1 to 100 bars as measured by the Juno microwave radiometer. Geophys. Research Letters 10.1002/2017GL074277.
  • Wang, D., Miguel, Y., and Lunine, J. 2017. Modeling synthetic spectra for transiting extrasolar giant planets: Detectability of H2S and PH3 with the James Webb Space Telescope. Astrophys. J.  850: 199 (15 pp). 
  • Recent papers on Titan seas:

    • Mastrogiuseppe, M., Hayes, A.G., Poggiali, V., Lunine, J.I., Lorenz, R.D., Seu, R., Le Gall, A., Notarnicola, C., Mitchell, K.L., Malaska, M., Birch, S.P.D. 2018. Bathymetry and composition of Titan’s Ontario Lacus derived from Monte Carlo-based waveform inversion of Cassini RADAR altimetry data. Icarus 300, 203-209. 
    • Malaska, M.J., Hodyss, R., Lunine, J.I., Hayes, A.G., Hofgartner, J.D., Hollyday, G., and Lorenz, R.D., 2017. Laboratory measurements of nitrogen dissolution in Titan lake fluids. Icarus 289, 94-105. 

    See the 2017 Carl Sagan Lecture at the American Geophysical Union Meeting 

    Check out the Cornell Space and Planetary Sciences page!