Prof. Jonathan Lunine, PhD

Prof. Lunine is at the forefront of planetary science and exploration, including numerous NASA missions exploring the large planets of the outer solar system and the search for potentially habitable conditions on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Prof. Lunine was our guest on Christian Podcast Episode #1 of and is the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and Director, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science

Prof. Lunine has published more than 300 research papers and his areas of research include: Planetary science, theoretical astrophysics, astrobiology, planetary system formation, evolution of volatile-rich worlds

Prof. Lunine grew up in New York City in a non-practicing Jewish family. His father faced alcoholism and died while Prof. Lunine was still young.  Prof. Lunine's interest in space developed early-on in childhood, visiting the Hayden Planetarium in NYC often and devouring issues of Sky and Telescope magazine. His mother encouraged him to write a letter to Carl Sagan and Dr. Sagan wrote him back in the form of a 2-page "instruction manual" of sorts, describing to him how to become an astronomer. Then, when he almost became a medical doctor, a chance ticket to see Francis Drake solidified Prof. Lunine's path to astronomy.

Lunine earned a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Rochester in 1980, followed by M.S. (1983) and Ph.D. (1985) degrees in Planetary Science from the California Institute of Technology. Prof. Lunine is the David Baltimore Distinguished Visiting Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and he is an interdisciplinary scientist on the Cassini mission to Saturn, and on the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as co-investigator on the Juno mission launched in 2011 to Jupiter. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, which gave him its Basic Science Award in 2009. In 2015 he was awarded the Jean Dominique Cassini medal of the European Geosciences Union.

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 proposed mission to look for signs of life in Saturn's moon Enceladus, and 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.

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