Dr. Christiane Helling

Research Theme:
St. Andrews
Email address:
Telephone number:
+44 (0)1334 461666
School of Physics & Astronomy, Physical Science Building, North Haugh, St Andrews, KY16 9SS, United Kingdom

Research interests

Ch Helling is the founding director of the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science and a former ERC starting grant holder at the University of St Andrews.

Her main interest are modelling physics and chemistry in brown dwarf and planetary atmospheres. The understanding of exoplanet atmopsheres is hampered by cloud layers that block our views, and that are made of silicate-like materials rather than of water. Christiane Helling and Peter Woitke developed the equations that now allow to model the formation of cloud, and to predict their properties. This is a theoretical description of gas - solid/liquid phase transitions which includes nucleation, growth and evaporation, and the influence of relative motions between gas and dust on the growth process. Ch Helling's work has, for the first time, provided insight in the formation process of clouds in brown dwarfs as well as in details like grain compositions and size distribution, both essential for predicting and understanding observed spectra. 

With the ERC grant, Ch Helling's now included ionisation processes in ultra-cool atmosphere. This links very well with her work on cloud formation as it includes cloud and gas charge and discharge processes, the effects of lightning, the origin of radio and X-ray emission from such cool atmospheres. 

Ch Helling's work applies knowledge from other disciplines and developes it further for the extreme conditions encountered in astrophysical objects. She has a strong interest in interdiscipinary work.

Research group webpage


I taught 2nd, 3rd, 4/5th yr level at the University of St Andrews. This includes 'Fluids', parts of 'Exoplanets' which is now 2nd yr astronomy, 'Contemporary Astrophysics', 2nd yr Physics,  and 'Advanced Topics in Modern Physics'.  I am supervising PhD, final-year, and summer students.

Research outputs

  1. Spitzer microlensing parallax for OGLE-2017-BLG-0896 reveals a counter-rotating low-mass brown dwarf DOI
    Yossi Shvartzvald, Jennifer C. Yee, Jan Skowron, Chung-Uk Lee, Andrzej Udalski, Sebastiano Calchi Novati, Valerio Bozza, Charles A. Beichman, Geoffery Bryden, Sean Carey et al., Astronomical Journal, 157, 3 (2019)
  2. Exonephology DOI
    S. Lines, J. Manners, N. J. Mayne, J. Goyal, A. L. Carter, I. A. Boutle, G. K. H. Lee, Ch Helling, B. Drummond, D. M. Acreman et al., Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 481, 1 , p. 194-205 (2018)
  3. Triboelectrification of KCl and ZnS particles in approximated exoplanet environments DOI
    Joshua Méndez Harper, Christiane Helling and Josef Dufek, Astrophysical Journal, 867, 2 (2018)
  4. Environmental effects on the ionisation of brown dwarf atmospheres DOI
    M. Isabel Rodríguez-Barrera, Christiane Helling and Kenneth Wood, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 618 (2018)
  5. Exo-lightning radio emission DOI
    Gabriella Hodosán, Christiane Helling, Paul B. Rimmer, Georg Fischer (Editor), Gottfried Mann (Editor), Mykhaylo Panchenko (Editor) and Philippe Zarka (Editor), the case study of HAT-P-11b, p. 345-356 (2018)
  6. Insight into atmospheres of extrasolar planets through plasma processes DOI
    Ch Helling, I. Vorgul, Georg Fischer (Editor), Gottfried Mann (Editor), Mykhaylo Panchenko (Editor) and Phillipe Zarka (Editor), p. 335-344 (2018)
  7. Simulating the cloudy atmospheres of HD 209458 b and HD 189733 b with the 3D Met Office Unified Model DOI
    Stefan Lines, Nathan Mayne, I. A. Boutle, J. Manners, Graham Kim Huat Lee, Christiane Helling, B. Drummond, D. S. Amundsen, J. Goyal, D. M. Acreman et al., Astronomy & Astrophysics, 615 (2018)
  8. Equlibrium chemistry down to 100 K DOI
    Peter Woitke, Christiane Helling, G.H. Hunter, J.D. Millard, G.E. Turner, M. Worters, J. Blecic and J.W. Stock, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 614 (2018)
  9. OGLE-2017-BLG-0329L DOI
    C. Han, S. Calchi Novati, A. Udalski, C.-U. Lee, A. Gould, V. Bozza, P. Mróz, P. Pietrukowicz, J. Skowron, M. K. Szymański et al., Astrophysical Journal, 859, 2 (2018)
  10. An absolute sodium abundance for a cloud-free 'hot Saturn' exoplanet DOI
    N. Nikolov, D. K. Sing, J. J. Fortney, J. M. Goyal, B. Drummond, T. M. Evans, N. P. Gibson, E. J. W. De Mooj, Z. Rustamkulov, H. R. Wakeford et al., Nature, 557, p. 526-529 (2018)
Last updated: 06 Apr 2018 at 21:14