From the centre of the Earth to the edge of the Universe
INSU research deepens our understanding of the Earth and the Universe, revealing our planet's secrets along with the mechanisms which control the evolution of galaxies. This fundamental knowledge also provides information on environmental risks and helps anticipate seismic and volcanic phenomena.
Discovering planet Earth's secrets
Solid earth sciences
Geosciences such as seismology, cosmochemistry, geodesy or geochemistry make use of increasingly high performance study tools and methods such as underwater exploration and drilling, seismic imaging, space observation and numeric modelling and simulation to understand more about the way the Earth is organized.
Knowledge is continually increasing about the concentric envelopes which make up the Earth, from its core to the biosphere. Ongoing research is retracing the birth of our planet, studying its structure and natural resources. By determining the origins of telluric catastrophes, this research is helping progress to be made in preventing seismic and volcanic phenomena.
Getting to grips with environmental risks
Diagnosing and explaining environmental modifications des milieux
Research into the Earth's external envelopes involves important environmental issues such as meteorology, the climate, the composition of air, water and ground resources, ocean and coastal environments and the evolution of continental surfaces. All of these environmental spheres interact through exchanges of energy and matter. They are studied through observation, laboratory or in situ experiments and modelling predictive scenarios.
Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
L’The INSU studies the physical, physical chemistry and biogeochemical processes which control the dynamics of these environments on large time and space scales. Progress in knowledge is mostly based on the acquisition and processing of observations for current and past climates and on the development and enhancement of numeric models of the atmosphere, the ocean and their interfaces.
Surface sciences and continental interfaces
Our researchers model exchanges within the critical zone – the interface between the lithosphere – atmosphere and hydrosphere – with the atmosphere, oceans and the "deep" Earth. They study the evolution of eco-hydrosystems, soils and hydrometeorological vagaries to understand more about their dynamics and therefore be able to predict the evolution of these essential resources.
The Earth and its environment
The Earth also interacts with its environment. The aim of space meteorology is to better understand and predict magnetic storms caused by jolts in generating solar activity which send winds of disruptive particles to the Earth's environment and biosphere. One category of small bodies in the solar system is potentially a risk to the Earth, namely near-Earth objects whose orbits may cross the Earth's own orbit.
Exploring the near and distant Universe
Astronomy and astrophysics
The INSU's research focuses on the formation of the Universe, the nature of its constituent parts and the objects which compose it, namely galaxies, stars, planetary systems and their components. The field of study for astronomers and astrophysicists thus extends from the ionized atmosphere of the Earth to the far reaches of the Universe. This fundamental research studies conditions of temperature, pressure and density in these astronomical objects which are unknown and cannot be reproduced on Earth. In this way the researchers concerned can test the laws of physics over very broad study fields.
The solar system
INSU researchers' theoretical observations and models focus as closely as possible on the solar system and its planets, asteroids and small bodies, particles and on how the Sun functions and interacts with the Earth.
The distant universe
Researchers search for and characterize exoplanets, especially telluric exoplanets which are made up mainly of rocks. They also study the mechanisms of star formation and evolution, the structure and composition of the interstellar medium in galaxies and the evolution of galaxies and their clusters to understand how the universe was formed and its evolution.
A major contribution to space research
Thanks to a framework agreement, the INSU is now the main partner of the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) within the CNRS. In this context, it participates in the CNES's own space programmes and also those run by the European Space Agency (ESA) or organizations from other countries (NASA, JAXA, ISRO, CNSA, ROSKOSMOS).
This has resulted in a series of jointly run space science projects involving the development of on-board satellite instruments, interplanetary probes or balloons. The Institute also develops methods for the analysis and usage of astronomical or terrestrial observations.