About Me

I study how planets originally form and evolve through their various physical and chemical modification pathways. Planetary and minor body surfaces record interactions with the exogenic realm (impact gardening, space weathering,etc.), the endogenic realm governed by geology, and surficial conditions from the atmosphere, cryosphere and hydrosphere. By studying comparatively their composition and morphology as a function of time, it becomes possible to piece together some of the history of our Solar System. Some bodies such as Mars may have additionally experienced habitable conditions conducive to the emergence of life, and studying those past habitable environments may also help piece together the conditions of early Earth.

The next step to our understanding of how planets evolve and perhaps how life emerged requires new analytical tools. I actively participate in the preparation of future exploration, through instrumentation work and the definition of landing sites for in-situ analyses on Mars and elsewhere.

I am particularily interested in research branching back to the conditions for abiogenesis on Earth, and to cross-disciplinarity, looking at ways to export VISNIR imaging spectroscopy to other fields of research and applied science.

Keywords: Planetary Surfaces, Mineralogy, Instrumentation, Remote Sensing, VISNIR Imaging Spectroscopy, Aqueous Alteration, Abiogenesis, Mars, Icy Moons

Contact Details

John Carter
IAS, Bat 121, Paris-Sud University
91405 Orsay, France



Ph.D. in astrophysics and planetary sciences

IAS and Paris-Saclay University 2011

Analysis of aqueous minerals on Mars from the OMEGA/Mars Express and CRISM/MRO orbital imaging spectrometers. Link to manuscript (French language)

M.Sc. by research in astrophysics

Paris Observatory and Paris-Saclay University 2010

Background in fundamental and applied physics and basic engineering.


Associate professor and staff astronomer

IAS and Paris-Saclay University 2014 - Present

Science activity within the Planetary Science group at IAS, in partnership with the Astrochemistry group.

Duty station at the IAS-OSUPS facility, working on instrumentaion for future Solar System surfaces exploration.

Teaching activity at Paris-Sud University includes digital signal processing and basic astronomy.

Postdoctoral Researcher

CNES and IAS 2013 - 2014

CNES (French space agency) funded postdoctoral grant. Worked on data processing and analysis for orbiting imaging spectrometers around Mars.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

European Southern Observatory - Santiago and Paranal Observatory 2011 - 2013

Research fellow working on planetary surfaces at the ESO-Santiago Vitaruca facility (Marie-Curie Co-Fund)

Support astronomer at the Cerro Paranal Very Large Telescope observatory . Duties of ~80 nights/year, instrument fellow for UT4/SINFONI .

Graduate Research Fellow

IAS and Paris-Saclay University 2008 - 2011

Graduate researcher (Paris-Sud Dean's fellowship) and teaching assistant.

Research intern

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and IAS 2006 - 2008

Reasearch intern at IAS working on planetary surface and atmospheric data.

Support astronomer stationed at the CSO in Hawaii (now defunct), worked on calibration and analysis of submm ISM data.

Research Topics

Planetary scientist with a background in theoretical and applied physics.

  • Planetary surface mineralogy
  • Remote sensing, data analysis
  • Instrumentation for planetary exploration
  • VIS-NIR spectroscopy and Radiative transfer
  • Geology and geochemistry


Ground Based


Mars Express


Hayabusa - II





MicrOmega and ISEM





Bepi Colombo