Christophe Sotin

Poste : Professeur des Universités

Courriel :

Téléphone : 02 51 12 54 71

Localisation : Nantes - 128

Domaine(s) de recherche : Planètes et lunes

Publications HAL

Pen portrait

After creating a laboratory in planetary geology and geophysics at University of Paris-Sud Orsay in 1988, Pr. Sotin and part of the laboratory moved to University of Nantes (France) in 1993 where the Laboratoire de Planétologie and Géodynamique (LPG) has developed. He was hired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / Caltech in 2007 where he became the Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration during the period 2012-2020. Back in Nantes in January 2021, he applies tools developed for the study of the Earth to interpret data acquired by space mission that have explored planets (Mars and Venus), satellites (Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Enceladus) and dwarf planets (Ceres) and to model the interior structure of exoplanets. He was Inter Disciplinary Scientist (IDS) on the Venus-Express mission and Co-I of the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) onboard the Cassini spacecraft, responsible for the implementation of the Titan observations.

  • Co-author of more than 250 papers in refereed journals and books. Web of science: h-index=60, 12400 citations (December 2021)



  • 11/86: Docteur d’Etat ès Sciences at Paris VII University
  • 09/83: Ph.D. in Geophysics at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris
  • 06/81: D.E.A. (Master degree in Science) in Geophysics at Nancy University
  • 06/81: Master Degree in Geological Engineering from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Géologie


Professional Experience

  • Professor at University of Nantes since 1993 – on leave of absence Sept. 2007 to Dec. 2020.
    • 2012–2020: Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    • 2007-2020: Senior Research Scientist. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    • 1996-2001: Professor at Institut Universitaire de France
  • Professor at Paris XI University (Orsay) from 1988 to 1993.
  • Junior research scientist at Brown University from 1986 to 1988.
  • Assistant professor at University of Nantes from 1985 to 1986.
  • Junior research scientist at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris from 1983 to 1985.
  • Contractor for TOTAL (oil Company) in 1983.
  • Volontaire Aide Technique (VAT) at Observatoire de Guadeloupe from 1981 to 1982.


Selected Honors/Awards

  • NASA JPL Magellan award – October 2014
  • Officier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques (January 2013)
  • Asteroid 54963 named Sotin (February 2012)
  • 2008 recipient of the Runcorn-Florensky medal of the European Geosciences Union
  • Member of IAA (International Academy of Astronautics) since 2003
  • 5 NASA team awards and 2 ESA team awards


Teaching (I resumed teaching at University of Nantes in January 2021)

  • Physics of stars and planets for undergraduates (2021)
  • Astrobiology: an interdisciplinary class for undergraduates (2021)
  • Planetary interiors: structure and dynamics – graduate students (2021)


Selected services in national/international committees

  • Elected member at CNRS section 18 (Earth science) since 2021
  • Member of the ISSI Science Committee (2016-2020)
  • Editor for Earth and Planetary Science Letters between December 2012 and December 2017.
  • Deputy director and then director of Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique (2000-2007)
  • Member of the Science Advisory Committee of the French space agency (CNES) between November 2000 and January 2009.
  • Chairman of CNES Solar System Working Group between 1997 and 2000.


Recent and significant publications (from over 230 publications)

  • Sotin C., Kalousova K., & Tobie G. (2021), Titan’s Interior Structure and Dynamics After the Cassini-Huygens Mission, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 49.
  • Estrela R., Swain M.R., Gupta A., Sotin C., and Valio A. (2020) The Evolutionary Track of H/He Envelopes of the Observed Population of Sub-Neptunes and Super-Earths; Astrophysical Journal, 898, 104.
  • Hand K.P., Sotin C., Hayes A., and Coustenis A. (2020) On the Habitability and Future Exploration of Ocean Worlds; Space Science Reviews, 216, 5, 95, DOI: 10.1007/s11214-020-00713-7
  • Kalousova, K., & Sotin, C. (2020). Dynamics of Titan’s high-pressure ice layer, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 45, 116416.
  • Neri A , Guyot F., Reynard B. and Sotin C. (2020) A carbonaceous chondrite and cometary origin for icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn; Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 530, 11592.
  • Swain, M. R., Estrela, R., Sotin, C., Roudier G. M., and Zellem R.T. (2019) Two Terrestrial Planet Families with Different Origins; Astrophysical Journal, 881, 117.
  • Kalousová, K., & Sotin, C. (2018). Melting in high-pressure ice layers of large ocean worlds—Implications for volatiles transport. Geophysical Research Letters, 45, 8096–8103.
  • Smrekar, SE; Davaille, A; Sotin, C (2018) Venus Interior Structure and Dynamics; SPACE SCIENCE REVIEWS; 214; 10.1007/s11214-018-0518-1
  • Kalousová K., Sotin, et al. (2018) Two-phase convection in Ganymede’s high-pressure ice layer: Implications for its geological evolution; Icarus, 299, 133-147.
  • Sotin C., et al. (2012) Observations of Titan’s Northern lakes at 5 microns: Implications for the organic cycle and geology; Icarus, 221, 768–786. doi:
  • Choukroun M. and Sotin (2012) Is Titan’s shape caused by its meteorology and carbon cycle? Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L04201.
  • Smrekar S.E. and Sotin (2012) Constraints on mantle plumes on Venus: Implications for volatile history; Icarus, 217, 510–523.
  • Sotin, C., Jackson J.M., Seager S. (2010) Terrestrial planet interiors; in Exoplanets, S. Seager (Ed), University of Arizona Space Science Series, 375-395.
  • Quesnel, Y., Sotin, C., Langlais, B., et al. (2009) Serpentinization of the martian crust during Noachian; Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 277, 184-193
  • Sotin C. and G. Tobie (2008); Titan’s hidden ocean; Science, 319, 1629-1630.
  • Sotin C., Grasset O. and Mocquet A.; (2007); Mass-radius curve for extrasolar Earth-like planets and ocean planets; Icarus, 191, 337-351.
  • Tobie G., J. Lunine, Sotin C., (2006), Episodic outgassing as the source of atmospheric methane on Titan, Nature, 440, doi :10.1038/nature04497, 61-64.
  • Sotin C., et al. (2005), Release of volatiles from a possible cryovolcano from infrared imaging, Nature, 435, doi :10.1038/nature03596, 786-789.
  • Tobie G., Mocquet A., Sotin C., (2005), Tidal dissipation within large icy satellites : Europa and Titan, Icarus, 177, 534-549.
  • McCord T. and Sotin C., (2005), Ceres Evolution and current state, J. Geophys. Res., 110, doi:10.1029/2004JE002244, E05009.
  • Sotin C. and Tobie G., (2004), Internal structure and dynamics of the large icy satellites, C. R. Acad. Sci. Physique, 5, 769-780.
  • Tobie G., Choblet G., Sotin C. (2003) Tidally heated convection: Constraints on Europa’s ice shell thickness, J. Geophys. Res., 108, doi:10.1029/2003JE002099.
  • Sotin C., Head J., Tobie G., (2002) Europa: Tidal heating of upwelling thermal plumes and the origin of lenticulae and chaos melting, Geophys. Res. Lett.., 29, 8, 74-1 – 74-4
  • Choblet G., Sotin C., (2001), Early transient cooling of Mars, Geophys. Res. Lett.., 28, 3035-3038.
  • Deschamps F., Sotin C. (2001), Thermal convection in the outer shell of large icy satellites, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 5107-5121.
  • Sotin C., Rocard F., Lognonne P., (2000), Summary of the International Conference on Mars Exploration Program & Sample Return Missions, Planet. Space Sci., 48, 1143-1144.
  • Sotin C. and Labrosse S., (1999), Thermal convection in an isoviscous, infinite Prandtl number fluid heated from within and from below : applications to the transfer of heat through planetary mantles, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 112, 171-190.
  • Vacher P., Mocquet A., Sotin C. (1998), Computation of seismic profiles from mineral physics : the importance of the non-olivine components for explaining the 660 km depth discontinuity, Phys. Earth Planet. Inter., 106, 275-298.
  • Parmentier EM, Sotin C, Travis BJ, (1994), Turbulent 3D thermal convection in an infinite Prandtl number, volumetrically heated fluid : implications for mantle dynamics, J. Int, 116: 241-251.