November 26, 2017
Athena Coustenis was born in Athens, Greece and grew up in a garden suburb by the Saronic Bay before moving to France where she earned two Masters degrees and one PhD in Astronomy and Space Techniques (she started another PhD in English Literature and hopes to finish it one day…) thanks to a scholarship provided by the French University which furthermore allowed her to complete a Post-Doc at Paris Observatory and apply for a position with the Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS).
Coustenis then got a permanent CNRS Researcher position at the Paris-Meudon Observatory, in the Space Lab for Space Studies and instrumentation in Astrophysics (LESIA).Paris-Meudon Observatory is the most important scientific observatory in France (www.obspm.fr). The facilities at Meudon include a 36-metre tall concrete tower containing a sophisticated spectrograph for examination of the Sun. Nearby, astronomers have converted the beautiful and luxurious Chateau de Meudon into an observatory and some have even lodged there!
Meudon was named by the Gauls, who called it Mol-Dum (sand dune). It is now a suburb on the south western edge of Paris, nestled in the hills and valleys of the river Seine half way between Paris and Versailles.
Coustenis is heavily involved in the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan, and has used a variety of large telescopes to conduct planetary investigations on outer planet systems and exoplanets. She has written more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has given more than 300 communications in scientific conventions and public events. She has first-authored three books.
She is leading or contributing to several advisory groups for the European Space Agency (http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=46238) and for NASA. Among other, she is President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (http://www.iamas.org/) and of the Planetary Sciences Division of the European Geosciences union (http://www.egu2013.eu/), as well as Secretary General of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (http://dps.aas.org/).
She has been awarded many NASA and ESA achievement awards and the 2012 Prix pour la réussite au Féminin by the France Euro Méditerranée Association (the ceremony took place at the French Senate on 29 November 2012, see picture attached).
Athena is married to Franck Darin and has a daughter, Callista (“the most beautiful” in Greek, named after the beautiful mythological nymph and a large moon in the solar system). She enjoys visiting Greece and her family there as often as possible (see recent picture of a lecture at the famous Academy of Athens).