Welcome here on my blog! I am Loïc, a PhD student currently working in LATMOS in Guyancourt, France. LATMOS stands for Laboratoire ATmosphères, Milieux et Observations Spatiales, which deals with atmospheres and surfaces of our home planet and the others.
This implies that there are a lot of people studying the Earth climate, using satellites and other spatial instruments. I am on the other part: the one that studies other planets. My team (IMPEC) covers Mars, Venus, Titan, asteroïds and comets.
I myself study Venus. Less popular than Mars or Titan, Venus is still pretty cool. It is hell! Surface pressure is about 90 times the Earth's atmospheric pressure, temperature can reach 400°C on the surface, and the atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The rest is sulfur, reacting with the (few) water that's left to form clouds of sulfuric acid. It is so much like hell that the spacecraft we (by “we” read “the Soviet Union”) sent lasted about an hour max.
I'm lucky enough to use data from a spacecraft, lasting far more than an hour. Venus Express (ESA) is actually orbiting the planet since April 2006 and should be active until the end of 2014 at least. So a big cake of data to dig through. I'm using a nice instrument called SPICAV (Spectroscopy for Investigation of Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Venus)1. It is a spectrometer and happens to be able to measure polarization2 in visible and infrared light.
Polarization is nice because it helps characterize the properties of the clouds. It has been used since 1920, so the method is robust. So why is my PhD interesting if it has been done before? Well, it has been done before, but last time it was in the 1980s. And we know now that there's long term variations on Venus, so having new measurements of polarization => new measurements of the cloud properties => possible study of temporal and spatial variability => profit3 !
But I do other nice things such as teaching to undergraduate students (for French : L1), and I also write content for an on-line course about planetary sciences.
I also enjoy a lot using the possibilities of modern communication tools, in particular Twitter! I'm quite active on it, and in case my posts become sparse, you know where to look at if you want some fresh news.
The purpose of this blog is to share experience, thoughts and news about what are planetary sciences, how it is to be a planetary scientist, and how it is to do a PhD (the answer is of course “great”4). The posts might involve #lifescience, space news, and general science/physics news/debates. As I consider myself as a geek, there might also be some science-fiction-related posts and also some GNU/Linux stuff.
Thank you for your attention, and have a nice visit here. And of course, feel free to comment; constructive criticism is welcome.
This is an introduction to my blog, so it will be sticked on the right side as a permanent page. A sort of reminder.
(1) I had to Google to get the full name.
(2) It is the thing they use in 3D theaters. But here it is in space, and no my data set is not in 3D. Well, it is, but not the fancy kind of 3D.
(3) not actual money…
(4) well, so far…
(4) well, so far…