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 works with the radar and other instruments on Cassini, continues to work on mass spectrometer data from Huygens, and is co-investigator on the Juno mission launched in 2011 to Jupiter.  He is on the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, focusing on characterization of extrasolar planets and Kuiper Belt objects.  Lunine is currently PI for a JPL-led study to send a probe into Saturn's atmosphere, and has contributed to mission concept studies for space-based astrometry and microlensing 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
  • Hong, Y-C., Tiscareno, M.S., Nicholson, P.D., and Lunine, J.I. 2015. Orbital instability of close-in exomoons in non-coplanar systems. MNRAS 449, 828-834.  
  • Wang, D., Gierasch, P.J., Lunine, J.I. and Mousis, O. 2015. New insights on Jupiter’s deep water abundance from disequilibrium species. Icarus 250, 154-164.
  • Lora, J.M., Lunine, JI. and Russell, J.L. 2015. GCM simulations of Titan’s middle and lower atmosphere and comparison to observations. Icarus 250, 516-52
  • Helled, R. and Lunine, J.I. 2014. Measuring Jupiter’s water abundance by Juno: the link between interior and formation models. MNRAS 441, 2273-2279.
  • Mitchell, K.L., Barmatz, M.B., Jamieson, C.S., Lorenz, R.D., and Lunine, J.I. 2015. Laboratory measurements of cryogenic liquid alkane microwave absorptivity and implications for the composition of Ligeia Mare, Titan. Geophys. Res. Letters, 10.1002/2014GL059475 

New: See the interviews on Enceladus Life Finder here

Cassini Medal Lecture at the 2015 EGU in its entirety here.

Check out the Cornell Space and Planetary Sciences page!