Extraterrestrial oceans: ERC Advanced Grant for Joachim Saur
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded the Cologne-based geophysicist Professor Dr Joachim Saur with the ERC Advanced Grant. Saur will receive a total of 2.1 million euros in funding. The ERC Advanced Grant is considered the most important funding award in the European research landscape.
Joachim Saur is Professor at the Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology at the University of Cologne. His research focuses on planets and space physics. With the ERC Advanced Grant for his EXO-OCEANS project, Saur and his team will search for and explore extraterrestrial oceans mainly on the moons in the outer solar system. The occurrence of liquid water is considered one of the few essential prerequisites for life – at least as we know it on Earth.
Using innovative methods and techniques, specifically a combination of computer simulations and new telescope observations, Saur’s team plans to search for oceans on Saturn’s moons, and also outside our solar system. In addition, the research work will for the first time allow for detailed analyses of the oceans on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede.
We already know that there is water on these Jupiter moons, but previous approaches failed to further characterize these oceans. The EXO-OCEANS project intends to significantly advance research into extraterrestrial oceans and thus create a basis for the search for extraterrestrial life. The project will also provide important results for the further exploration of Ganymede and Europe by the ESA and NASA missions JUICE and EUROPA CLIPPER, which are planned for around 2030.
ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers for projects which, due to their innovative approach, carry a certain amount of uncertainty, but may open up groundbreaking new avenues in their respective fields. Funding is provided to scientists who have been working consistently and successfully at the highest level for many years.
Joachim Saur studied physics and geophysics at the universities of Stuttgart and Cologne. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (Nice, France) and at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland, USA), and as a Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory (Laurel, Maryland, USA). In 2005 Saur returned to Cologne as a professor at the Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology. In 2011 and 2015 he also held visiting professorships at Johns Hopkins University.