Lisa Kaltenegger

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Lisa Kaltenegger
Lisa Kaltenegger standing in front of Cornell's Big Red Barn
Born4 March 1977 (1977-03-04) (age 46)
Known forExoplanet atmospheres
Scientific career
InstitutionsCornell University
Carl Sagan Institute

Lisa Kaltenegger (4 March 1977 in Kuchl nearby Salzburg) is an Austrian world-leading astronomer with expertise in the modeling and characterization of exoplanets and the search for life. On July 1, 2014, she was appointed Associate Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University.[1][2] Previously, she held a joint position at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg where she was the Emmy Noether Research Group Leader for the "Super-Earths and Life" group, and at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian in Cambridge, MA.[3] She was appointed Lecturer in 2008 at Harvard University and 2011 at University of Heidelberg.[4]

Academic career[edit]

Kaltenegger earned a degree in astrophysics in 1999 from Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria; a master’s in physics and engineering in 2001 from the Graz University of Technology; and a doctorate in astrophysics in 2005 from Karl Franzens University.[5] Her Ph.D. was awarded Sub auspiciis Praesidentis by the Austrian president.[6]

Kaltenegger is known for her studies of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets, especially Earth-like ones[7][8] and is a pioneer in the study of the Earth as an astronomical object evolving in time. She studied the change in the Earth's spectral fingerprint as a comparison with the evolutionary stages of Earthlike exoplanets to generate an "Alien ID Chart"[9][10] - pointing out that as biology and geology change the Earth through the ages, its appearance to a telescope observing it from distant stars would also change. She also investigated the ability of future telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope to detect evidence of life using spectral biomarkers (biosignatures)[11] and generated the first spectra of Earth seen as a transiting exoplanet in 2009, concluding that it will be a hard problem for JWST and bigger future telescopes are needed to find signatures of life on many planets.[12]

In 2009, Kaltenegger discussed how one can determine habitability for moons around giant planets[13][14] coinciding with the suggestion of such a moon in the movie Avatar. [15]

In 2010, Kaltenegger explored whether we could observe geological activity, that is very important for habitability, on exoplanets, finding that about 10 times Pinatubo eruptions could be detected around the closest exoplanets, showing us if other planets are similar to our own Earth. In 2011, she led a team to model the spectral fingerprint of Gliese 581 d, one of the first small Radial Velocity planets to be discovered in the habitable zone of its star.[16]

In 2013, Kaltenegger was part of the team announcing the discovery of the first two potentially habitable Kepler planets, with radii smaller than 2 Earth radii in the habitable zone of their stars, Kepler 62e and Kepler 62f[17] and investigated whether or not these planets could still be habitable and how their spectra would look like if they were water worlds.[18]

In 2021, Kaltenegger and J. K. Faherty identified 1,715 stars (with likely related exoplanetary systems) within 326 light-years (100 parsecs) that have a favorable positional vantage point—in relation to the Earth Transit Zone (ETZ)—of detecting Earth as an exoplanet transiting the Sun since the beginnings of human civilization (about 5,000 years ago); an additional 319 stars are expected to arrive at this special vantage point in the next 5,000 years.[19]

Kaltenegger served four years[when?] on the Executive Council of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (Exo-PAG)[20] and is part of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)[21] and FGS/NIRISS[22] science team. Kaltenegger is the founder[citation needed] and current director[23] of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University.


Asteroid 7734 Kaltenegger is named after Kaltenegger.[24] In 2007 she was named America's Young Innovator in Arts and Science by Smithsonian Magazine and received the Paul Hertelendy Prize for Outstanding Young Scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In 2012 she was named an EC Role Model for the Women in Research & Science Campaign of the EU and was awarded the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Preis in physics [25] awarded annually to only six young researchers in all fields of science in Germany. In 2013 she was selected as PI for the Simons Origins of Life Initiative[26] as well as PI for the Japanese Earth and Life Science Institute (ELIS).[27] In 2014 she received the Christian-Doppler Prize of the city of Salzburg for Science and Innovations.[28]


  1. ^ Hovis, Kathy (2014-06-25). "Lisa Kaltenegger searches for another 'pale blue dot' | Cornell Chronicle".
  2. ^ "Lisa Kaltenegger | Carl Sagan Institute". Retrieved 2023-02-07.
  3. ^ Gewin, Virginia (2012-04-25). "Turning point: Lisa Kaltenegger". Nature. 484 (7395): 555. doi:10.1038/nj7395-555a.
  4. ^ "Introducing Astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger - Simulating Worlds Stranger than Fiction". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-03. Bridges, Vol. 20, December 2008
  5. ^ "NASA Astrobiology: Life in the Universe". Archived from the original on 2013-03-21. Retrieved 2014-09-18. NASA
  6. ^ "Introducing Astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger - Simulating Worlds Stranger than Fiction". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-03. Bridges, Vol. 20, December 2008
  7. ^ Kluger, Jeffrey (2014-01-02). "Finding A Second Earth". Time. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  8. ^ Gast, Robert (2012-06-06). "Astrophysikerin Kaltenegger: Detektivin im Weltall". Die Zeit (in German). ISSN 0044-2070.
  9. ^ Seife, Charles (2007-10-02). "Signs of Life". Smithsonian.
  10. ^ Kaltenegger, L.; Traub, W. A.; Jucks, K. W. (2007). "Spectral Evolution of an Earth-Like Planet". The Astrophysical Journal. 658 (1): 598–616. arXiv:astro-ph/0609398. Bibcode:2007ApJ...658..598K. doi:10.1086/510996. S2CID 28813409. article on Spectral Evolution of an Earth-like planet through geological time
  11. ^ Kaltenegger, L.; Traub, W. A. (2009). "Transits of Earth-Like Planets". The Astrophysical Journal. 698 (1): 519–527. arXiv:0903.3371. Bibcode:2009ApJ...698..519K. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/698/1/519. S2CID 53636156.
  12. ^ Kaltenegger, L.; Traub, W. A. (2009). "Transits of Earth-Like Planets". The Astrophysical Journal. 698 (1): 519–527. arXiv:0903.3371. Bibcode:2009ApJ...698..519K. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/698/1/519. S2CID 53636156.
  13. ^ Choi, Charles (2009-12-27). "Moons Like Avatar's Pandora Could Be Found". Retrieved 2012-12-28.
  14. ^ Kaltenegger, L. (2009). "Characterizing Habitable Exo-Moons". The Astrophysical Journal. 712 (2): L125–L130. arXiv:0912.3484. Bibcode:2010ApJ...712L.125K. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/712/2/L125. S2CID 117385339.
  15. ^ "Can We Spot Volcanoes on Alien Worlds? Astronomers Say Yes". 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  16. ^ Stampf, Olaf (2010-10-08). "The Twin Earths of Gliese 581: Two Exoplanets May Support Life - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  17. ^ "Kepler Makes Discoveries Inside the Habitable Zone - YouTube". Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  18. ^ "Two Water Worlds for the Price of One". 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  19. ^ Kaltenegger, L.; Faherty, J.K. (23 June 2021). "Past, present and future stars that can see Earth as a transiting exoplanet". Nature. 594 (7864): 505–507. arXiv:2107.07936. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03596-y. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 34163055. S2CID 235626242. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  20. ^ "Exoplanet Program: Overview". Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17.
  21. ^ Archived 2014-02-26 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS) Webb/NASA".
  23. ^ "History of Carl Sagan Institute". Archived from the original on 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  24. ^ Alan Chamberlin. "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". Retrieved 22 Oct 2014.
  25. ^ "Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize for Lisa Kaltenegger". Retrieved 28 Dec 2012.
  26. ^ "Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life: Lisa Kaltenegger | Simons Foundation". Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 22 Oct 2014.
  27. ^ "People | 地球生命研究所 ELSI EARTH-LIFE SCIENCE INSTITUTE". Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 22 Oct 2014.
  28. ^ "Christian-Doppler-Preis – Salzburgwiki". Retrieved 22 Oct 2014.

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