Lisa Kaltenegger

Associate Professor, Director of the Carl Sagan Institute


Prof. Lisa Kaltenegger is an award-winning astrophysicist and astrobiologist, the Founding Director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell, Professor in Astronomy at Cornell University, and author of Alien Earths: The Science for Planet Hunting in the Cosmos (April 16 2024).

Asteroid 7734Kaltenegger is named after her. private webpage:

Find her @KalteneggerLisa or @CSInst, facebook and instagram

Research Focus

Lisa Kaltenegger is a pioneer and world-leading expert in modeling habitable worlds and their light fingerprints and has spent the last decade finding new ways to spot life in the cosmos, working with NASA and ESA from Austria to the Netherlands, Harvard, Germany, and now Cornell. Prof. Kaltenegger is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications.

Lisa Kaltenegger served on the National Science Foundation's Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), and on NASA senior review of operating missions, among others. She is a Science Team Member of NASA's TESS Mission and the NIRISS instrument on JWST.

Awards and Honors

Among her international awards are the Invited Discourse lecture at the IAU General Assembly in Hawaii, the Heinz Meier Leibnitz Prize for Physics of Germany, the Doppler Prize for Innovation in Science of Austria, the Barry-Jones Inauguration Award of the Royal Astrobiology Society and Open University in Britain, and the Beatrice Tinsley Lecturer of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Annual Reviews selected her review 2017 on “How to Characterize Habitable Worlds and Signs of Life” as part of a collection celebrating pioneering women scientists.

Lisa Kaltenegger was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine, an Innovator to Watch by TIME Magazine, and she was selected as one of the European Commission’s Role Models for Women in Science and Research. Prof. Kaltenegger is a popular science communicator: she was featured in the IMAX 3D movie "The Search for Life in Space" and has given numerous public lectures, including for the Aspen Ideas Festival, TED Youth, and the World Science Festival. She also gave the Kavli Foundation lecture at the Adler Planetarium, which was live-streamed to 6 continents. Her new book “Alien Earths: The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos” will be published April 16 2024.


  • Research Associate at Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Boston
  • Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC



SELECTED PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS (google scholar link to all papers here)          

* Indicates graduate students and researchers in Professor Kaltenegger’s research group

Kaltenegger, L., How to characterize a Habitable Planet, Astronomy &
Astrophysics Annual Review, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 55, 433-485, 2017

Li, J.*, Kaltenegger, L., Pham, D., Ruppert, D., Characterization of extrasolar giant planets with machine learning, MNRAS: Letter 527, L137-L143, 2024

Vannah, S, Gleiser, M., Kaltenegger, L., An Information Theory Approach to Identifying Signs of Life on Transiting Planets, MNRAS: Letter 528, 2024

Payne, R.C*. & Kaltenegger, L, Oxygen bounty for Earth-like exoplanets: spectra of Earth through the Phanerozoic, MNRAS: Letters 527, L1511-L155, 2024

Gomes-Barrientos, J.*, Kaltenegger, L., MacDonald, R., A Venus in the making? Predictions for JWST observations of the ultracool M-dwarf planet LP 890-9 c, MNRAS Letters 524 (1), L5-L9, 2023

Kaltenegger, L., Payne, RC*, Lin Z, Kasting, J, Delrez, L, Hot Earth or Young Venus? A nearby transiting rocky planet mystery, MNRAS, Letters 524 (1), L10-L14, 2023

Fortin, M.A.*, Gazel, E., Kaltenegger, L., & Holycross, M.E ., Volcanic
Exoplanet Surfaces, MNRAS, 516 (3), 4569-4575, 2022

Pham, D.* & Kaltenegger, L., Follow the water: finding water, snow, and clouds on terrestrial exoplanets with photometry and machine learning, MNRS: Letters 513 (1), L72-L77, 2022

Coelho, L.F.*, Madden, J*., Kaltenegger, L., et al., Color Catalogue of
Life in Ice: Surface Biosignatures on Icy Worlds, Astrobiology 22 (3),
313-321, 2022

Kaltenegger, L. & Faherty, J.K., Past, present and future stars that can
see Earth as a transiting exoplanet, Nature 594 (7864), 505-507, 2021

Kaltenegger L., Lin Z.*, Rugheimer S., Finding Signs of Life on
Transiting Earthlike Planets: High-resolution Transmission Spectra of
Earth through Time around FGKM Host Stars, ApJ 904 (1), 10, 2021

Kaltenegger, L., MacDonald, R., Kozakis, T.*, Lewis, N., Mamajek, E.,
McDowell J.C. & Vanderberg, A., The White Dwarf Opportunity: Robust Detections of Molecules in Earth-like Exoplanet Atmospheres with the James Webb Space Telescope, ApJL, 901 (1), L1, 2020

Madden, J.* & Kaltenegger, L., 2020, High-resolution Spectra for a Wide Range of Habitable Zone Planets around Sun-like Stars, The Astrophysical Journal Letters 898 (2), L4

Kaltenegger, L. &  Traub, W.A., Transits of Earth-like planets, The
Astrophysical Journal 698 (1), 519, 370, 2009

Kaltenegger, L. & Traub, W.A. & Jucks, K.W., Spectral evolution of an Earth-like planet, The Astrophysical Journal 658 (1), 598, 293, 2007


Director of the Carl Sagan Institute

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