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Christiane Helling becomes new director of the Space Research Institute of the ÖAW

31.8.2021 | The astrophysicist will among other things lead the institute through its contribution to ESA’s VOYAGE 2050 programme.
Prof Christiane Helling
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(© Christiane Helling)

Prof Christiane Helling

Professor Christiane Helling, an astrophysicist specialising in exoplanets and brown dwarfs, has seen off three competitors in a public hearing to become the next director of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)’s Space Research Institute.

“Christiane Helling was convincing with her competence in the field of exoplanet research, her extensive international experience and interdisciplinary research approach,” President of the ÖAW, Anton Zeilinger, said in a press release. “I am sure that she will continue to expand the institute’s top position in space research in Austria and beyond.”

Among her many new responsibilities will be seeing the institute through its commitment to the European Space Agency (ESA). “The institute will make a significant contribution to important core topics of VOYAGE 2050,” Prof Helling commented to the ÖAW. VOYAGE 2050 plans the space science missions which are due to take place between 2035 and 2050, which will likely include missions related to the moons of the giant planets in the Solar System, the Milky Way’s formation and history, and habitable exoplanets.

Having been Director of the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science at the University of St Andrews in Scotland since 2016, Prof Helling is extremely familiar with the latter subject. Her own research is dedicated to the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs, which are astronomical objects bigger than planets but smaller than stars. These atmospheres are often covered by obscuring clouds, the formation and behaviour of which Prof Helling simulates using specially developed models.

Prof Helling’s career has included positions at the Technical University Berlin in Germany, Leiden University in the Netherlands and at the University of Vienna, Austria. She also spent a year as a research fellow at ESA. When on October 1st she takes over from Wolfgang Baumjohann, who is retiring, it will be the first change in leadership for the Space Research Institute since 2004. Prof Helling will be its first female director.   (© AcademiaNet)

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