Michele Dougherty is a space physicist who is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter. Amongst other important findings, her work led to the discovery of an atmosphere containing water and hydrocarbons around Saturn’s moon Enceladus — opening up new possibilities in the search for life.
Michele is principal investigator for the magnetometer (MAG) instrument onboard the Cassini spacecraft on its mission to explore Saturn and its neighbourhood. She and her team measured the level and direction of magnetic materials from the atmosphere of Saturn and the moons visited by Cassini. Michele’s innovative use of magnetic field data has therefore had an enormous impact on our understanding of the moons in our Solar System.
Michele was the lead investigator for the European Space Agency’s JUICE spacecraft, scheduled to go into orbit around Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, in 2032, and was recently selected as Principal Investigator for its magnetometer. She received the Royal Society’s 2008 Hughes Medal and a prestigious Research Professorship in 2014, which enables her to focus on her research throughout this important space mission.
Interest and expertise
Astronomy and physics
Planetary science (Astronomy and Physics)
For innovative use of magnetic field data that led to discovery of an atmosphere around one of Saturn's moons and the way it revolutionised our view of the role of planetary moons in the Solar System.
Bakerian Medal and Lecture
For her scientific leadership of the Cassini magnetic field instrument at Saturn, seminal research findings on potential life support on Enceladus and leadership of forthcoming missions to probe Jupiter’s icy moons.