Prof. Dr. Christiane Helling

Director, Group Leader

T +43 (316) 4120 - 301
Room E.d.1

Research Interests

Kinetic, non-equilibrium cloud formation: First model describing the micro-physics of cloud
formation in exoplanet atmospheres, followed by first consistent 1D simulation including
radiative feedback.

3D climate modelling of irradiated exoplanets: pioneered cloud-forming 3D climate simulation
for irradiated giant gas planet and application of Monte-Carlo Radiation transfer to infer the
scattering and emission spectrum of close-in planets.

Transit asymmetry and magnetic fields of exoplanets: linked the early ingress to planet-star
interaction, bow-shock stand off distance was shown to measure the (else-wise undetectable)
planetary magnetic field strength, essential to determine state of habitability.

Ionisation process in very cold, low-mass stars and planets: demonstrated that ultra-cool
objects host partially and locally fully ionised atmospheres allowing for magnetic coupling,
brown dwarfs form chromospheres but planets form deep day-side ionospheres, proofed
detectability with ALMA, shown that cosmic rays foster the formation of complex molecules
that help tracing the magnetic field geometry and open paths to bio-chemistry, demonstrated
that exoplanet clouds may show lightning.

Ion-neutral gas chemistry network: pioneered a kinetic gas- phase chemistry modelling that is
capable of predicting the abundances of neutrals and ions across a wide temperature range
that allows the analysis of lightning chemistry and the influence of external radiation sources
such as stellar UV and CRs.

Career Summary

2023-Programme Chair of the Summer School Alpbach
2023-Programme Director of Graz in Space
2021-Full professor in Weltraumwissenschaften, Graz University of Technology, Austria
2021-Director, Institute for Space Research Graz (IWF), Austrian Academy of Science
2021-Chair of the Young Researcher Program - YRP@Graz
2020-2024Coordinator of the Marie Curie Innovative Training Network for European Joint Doctorates CHAMELEON
2021Full professor (chair) in Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, UK
2019-2021Senior Scientist at the Netherlands Institute for Space Research
2016-2021Director, St Andews Centre for Exoplanet Science, University of St Andrews, UK
2014-2021Reader in Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, UK
2010-2016ERC Starting Grant for Project LEAP
2010-2014Lecturer in Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, UK
2011Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna, Austria, Department of Astronomy
2009-2010SUPA Advanced Fellow and Honorary Lecturer, University of St Andrews, UK
2009Invited Participant at Kavli Institut for Theoretical Physics, University of California, US
2005-2006ESA Darwin Research Fellow, ESTEC Noordwijk, The Netherlands
2004-2005PostDoc fellowship for equal opportunities from Berlin at Sterrewacht Leiden, NL
1999-2003PosDoc in DFG Schwerpunk, TU Berlin & Zuse-Center @ FU Berlin, Germany

Academic educaton

2004Habilitation in Astrophysics, Center for Astronomy und Astrophysics, TU Berlin
1999PhD dissertation (Dr. rer. nat., with distinction), Fakultät II TU Berlin
1996Diploma in Physics, TU Berlin, diploma thesis in astrophysics
1990-1996Studies of Physics, TU Berlin and FU Berlin, incl. diploma thesis at NBI Copenhagen


244 publications, H factor 43 (ADS) and 48 (Googlescholar),
144 refereed publications (ADS), 89 conference proceedings,reviews,book chapters (ADS)

10 most important publications (entire career)

  1. Helling, Ch. & Woitke, P., Dust in brown dwarfs. V. Growth and evaporation of dirty dust grains, A&A 455 (2006), 325, DOI:10.1051/0004-6361:20054598
  2. Witte, S., Helling, Ch., Hauschildt, P., Dust in brown dwarfs and extra-solar planets. II. Cloud formation for cosmologically evolving abundances, A&A506 (2009),1367, DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/200811501
  3. Helling, Ch., Samra, D., Lewis, D. et al., Exoplanet weather and climate regimes with clouds and thermal ionospheres. A model grid study in support of large-scale observational campaigns, A&A, 671 (2023), A122, DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/202243956
  4. Vidotto, A.A., Jardine, M., Helling, Ch., Early UV ingress in WASP-12B: Measuring planetary magnetic fields, ApJ 722 (2010), 168, DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/722/2/L168
  5. Rimmer, P.B. & Helling, Ch., Ionization in atmospheres of brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets. IV. The effect of cosmic rays, ApJ 774 (2013), 108, DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/774/2/108
  6. Helling, Ch., Woitke, P., Rimmer, P.B. et al., Disk Evolution, Element Abundances and Cloud Properties of Young Gas Giant Planets, Life 4 (2014), 142, DOI:10.3390/life4020142
  7. Barth, P., Stüeken E.e., Helling, Ch. et al., Isotopic constraints on lightning as a source of fixed nitrogen in Earth's early biosphere, Nat. Geosci. 16 (2023), 478, DOI:10.1038/s41561-023-01187-2 (Press Release)
  8. Rimmer, P.B. & Helling, Ch., A chemical kinetics network for lightning and life in planetary atmospheres, ApJS 224 (2016), 33, DOI:10.3847/0067-0049/224/1/9
  9. Helling, Ch., Harrison, R.G., Honary, F. et al., Atmospheric Electrification in Dusty, Reactive Gases in the Solar System and Beyond, SGeo 37 (2016), 705 DOI:10.1007/s10712-016-9361-7
  10. Helling, Ch., Klein, R., Woitke, P., Nowak, U., Sedlmayr, E., Dust in brown dwarfs. IV. Dust formation and driven turbulence on mesoscopic scales, A&A 423 (2004), 657, DOI:10.1051/0004-6361:20034514


Scientific Events

News & Infos


Around Distant Suns

ISBN-10 1911486659

Nine Stories Inspired by Research from the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science
Edited by Emma Johanna Puranen

What happens when scientists and writers collaborate in the creative process?

Unique stories of distant planets, alien encounters, emergent life, and talking clouds, that’s what.


ISBN-10 3863120108

Wer hätte gedacht, dass es irgendwo in unserem Universum auch Edelsteinwolken gibt? Das Buch überrascht und verführt mit der Erkenntnis, dass Wolken nicht nur an unserem Himmel stehen. …
— “Wolken” … ist ein schönes und intelligentes Buch für alle einschlägig interessierten Leser: Schön weil es die vielfältige Pracht des Phänomens “Wolken” wunderbar präsentiert, und intelligent, weil es diese Vielfalt mit einem vernünftigen Maß an physikalischen Gesetzen erklärt. …

Lexikon der Mathematik in 6 Bänden

ISBN-9783827411594, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag; 1 Edition, 18 Juni 2003

Das “Lexikon der Mathematik” bietet in insgesamt ca. 17.000 Stichworteinträgen einen umfassenden Überblick über die moderne Mathematik, ihre Fachterminologie und ihre Anwendungen. Die behandelten Fachgebiete reichen von so klassischen Themengebieten wie Geometrie, Zahlentheorie oder auch Geschichte der Mathematik über Numerische Mathematik, Graphentheorie, Versicherungsmathematik und Optimierung bis hin zu modernsten Anwendungen wie etwa Wavelets, Codierungstheorie oder Neuronale Netze.