The scientific activities of the Pôle Système Solaire within IPSL cover various objects and environments of the solar system. These studies are mainly devoted to planetary atmospheres (e.g. Titan, Venus...), solar system plasma environments, objects with particular interest for exobiology (e.g. comets, Mars...), and the Sun. The research is organized around three activities : numerical simulations, building and use of instruments on board space missions for exploration of the solar system, and experimental simulations of planetary environments in laboratories. The complementarity of these different research fields, as well as the associated methodologies developed in these contexts, allow the Pôle Système Solaire to produce high scientific results on the studied environments, and therefore to significantly help our understanding of the solar system.
The knowledge earned from the Earth magnetosphere is often used as a reference, inducing study of the physics of planetary environments with a comparative planetology point of view. Indeed, it is probable that processes similar to those encountered in the terrestrial magnetosphere (e.g. frontier formation, magnetic reconnexion processes, growth of parallel electric fields) occur at different scales in the solar system. While the numerous in-situ measurements done within the Earth magnetosphere yield an exhaustive study of these processes, and therefore help to test different theories, data acquired by space probes in deeper space provide a better understanding of ionised environments, and help us estimate the degree of universality associated with encountered processes.
Planetary atmospheres are studied in our laboratories by combining data from space missions exploring these environments ( Mars-Express , Vénus-Express , Cassini-Huygens for Titan, Bepi-Colombo for Mercure), with models of different levels of complexity. Laboratory experiments are also developed to complete these studies.
The subsurface-atmosphere interactions studied at Pôle Système Solaire mainly concern at Mars : search for and characterization of water in the subsurface, study of gaseous exchange fluxes between the subsurface and the atmosphere, study of past and present outgassing, history of chemical weathering at the surface of the planet. These interactions give essential clues to decipher Mars history.
Exobiology (or astrobiology) is the science which is devoted to the study of life in the universe. This includes the study of life itself, its evolution and its distribution in the universe, but also the conditions and the processes which allowed the emergence of life on our planet, or elsewhere in the universe. Therefore, this science is obviously a pluridisciplinary one, meaning that it requires the skills from both biologists, physicists, chemists and geologists.