Björn Benneke


Assistant Professor at Université de Montréal

The next five years present a truly unique opportunity in the history of planetary astrophysics. For the first time, the observational techniques, the theoretical models, and a sufficient number of known exoplanets orbiting nearby stars are available to spectroscopically characterize a wide diversity of planets. Planets ranging from blazingly hot giant planets to temperate Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of their host stars.

Many unanswered questions remain: How and where do planets form? What materials make up their interiors? What gases are in their atmospheres? What role do clouds and hazes play? How big can a terrestrial planet be? How small can a gaseous planet be? And finally, what planets are capable of hosting life?

Professor Benneke’s team is currently in an exceptional position to address many of the questions above because they are currently conducting several unprecedented large observational programs using the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the 10-meter Keck observatories. They have developed powerful analysis and modeling framework to interpret these unique data sets. The four main areas that Professor Benneke’s group is working on are:

  • Exploring the diversity of planetary atmospheres on super-Earths and exo-Neptunes using Hubble Space Telescope transit spectroscopy. Professor Benneke is the principal investigator of the largest Hubble Space Program in the world to characterize small exoplanets.
  • Probing the formation of giants planets using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy from 10-meter Keck telescopes
  • Atmospheric characterization and mapping of exoplanets using the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
  • Understanding the exotic cloud types on exoplanets
  • Discovery and initial characterization of prime targets for future JWST characterization using K2, TESS, and ground-based follow-up

Professor Benneke is arriving at Université de Montréal from Caltech where he completed a 4-year postdoctoral fellowship focused on exoplanet observation and modeling. He previously received his PhD at MIT supervised by Sara Seager.

Graduate students
  • Steven Rogowski (MSc, Université de Montréal)
  • Jonathan Chan (MSc, Université de Montréal)
  • Stéphane Pelletier (MSc, Université de Montréal)


  • Peter Gao (PhD at Caltech, now prize fellow at UC Berkeley)
  • Ian Wong (PhD at Caltech, co-supervised with Heather Knutson)
  • Danielle Piskorz (PhD at Caltech, co-supervised with Geoffrey Blake)
  • Marta Bryan (PhD at Caltech, co-supervised with Heather Knutson)
In the media

Phone : 514-343-6111 x 5816
Office : Roger-Gaudry Building, D-446