Prof. Dr. Heike Rauer
German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
Head of the Institute of Planetary Research
Jointly Appointed Professorship
Heike Rauer earned her degree in Physics from the University of Hannover in 1986. She completed a doctorate at the University of Göttingen in 1991 with a research paper on cometary plasma tails, which she wrote at the former Max Planck Institute for Aeronomics (now called the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research) in Katlenburg-Lindau. Awarded a research fellowship by the European Space Agency (ESA), she worked at the Observatoire de Paris – Meudon from 1995 to 1997.
During her subsequent period at DLR, Heike Rauer completed her post-doctoral qualification (Habilitation) at the Technical University of Berlin in 2004, where she taught at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics as professor for Planetary Physics. She moved to the Department of Geosciences at the Freie University of Berlin on 1 November 2017, where she specialised in planetology.
Since 2013, Rauer has been Head of the instrument consortium for the ESA space telescope PLATO, which will survey the Milky Way for planets, in particular Earth-like planets, from 2026. She is a member of the science team in the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a network of 12 automatically operating telescopes that search for exoplanets at Paranal Observatory, which is part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.
She was Germany’s representative and co-investigator in the space telescope project CoRoT of CNES and ESA from 2006 to 2014. She was also part of the team for the MIRO microwave spectrometer on the Rosetta mission that was used to identify cometary gases. (Source: DLR press release from 1 Nov 2017)
Heike Rauer's scientific work focuses on the search for and characterisation of extrasolar planets through use of the transit method with space telescopes and ground-based observation campaigns. She also conducts research into the modelling of 'exoplanet' atmospheres and their spectroscopic analysis. One of the aims is to characterise these planets with regard to their habitability, and hence to potentially identify traces of life in future. Another focus of her research is to be able to draw some conclusions on the nascent periods of the Solar System, at the time when life first emerged on Earth. (Source: DLR press release from 11 Nov 2017)
How did the Solar System form? Are we alone in the Universe? What scientific methods can we use to prove the existence of extraterrestrial lifeforms? These questions fascinate scientists and non-scientists alike. Planetary research seeks to find answers. "The art of planetary research": Interview with Prof. Heike Rauer and Prof. Tilman Spohn (DLR press release from 16 Nov 2017).
Heike Rauer is further Principal Investigator of project C5 within the Transregional Collaborative Research Center TRR 170. Project C5 deals with early interior-surface-atmosphere interactions on the terrestrial planets. During the early phases of planet building, the atmospheric surface temperature may heavily influence the thermochemical evolution of the magma ocean. There is a gap in knowledge however, regarding how long the surface phase of the magma ocean was molten and what are the implications for mixing of impacting material into the interior. We address this knowledge gap by coupling a state-of-the-art atmospheric evolution model with an interior outgassing model. (Source: TRR-170 Late Accretion onto Terrestrial Planets)
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