Nicolas Cowan


Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences
3450 University St.
Montreal, Quebec
Canada H3A 0E8

Email: nicolas.cowan [at]

Group website



EPSC 186 Astrobiology 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


I study the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) using space telescopes and novel remote sensing methods. My goal is to empirically measure their atmospheric reflectiveness (clouds), infrared opacity (greenhouse gases), and heat transport (winds). These are the dominant factors that determine the climate on all planets, including Earth. In order to make these measurements, I obtain and analyze observations from telescopes on the ground and in space. Often, this analysis involves constructing temperature and surface maps of the exoplanets ("exo-cartography").

Selected Publications

Kaib, N.A. and Cowan, N.B., (2015). The feeding zones of terrestrial planets and insights into Moon formation. Icarus, 252, 161-174, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2015.01.013.

Schwartz, J.C. and Cowan, N.B., (2015). Balancing the energy budget of short-period giant planets: evidence for reflective clouds and optical absorbers. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 449(4), 4192-4203, doi:10.1093/mnras/stv470.

Cowan, N.B. and Abbot, D.S., (2014). Water Cycling between Ocean and Mantle: Super-Earths Need Not Be Waterworlds. The Astrophysical Journal, 781(1), 27, 7 pp., doi:10.1088/0004-637X/781/1/27.

Hansen, C.J., Schwartz, J.C., and Cowan, N.B., (2014). Features in the broad-band eclipse spectra of exoplanets: signal or noise?. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 444(4), 3632-3640, doi:10.1093/mnras/stu1699

Cowan, N.B. and Strait, T.E., (2013). Determining Reflectance Spectra of Surfaces and Clouds on Exoplanets. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 765(1), L17, 5 pp., doi:10.1088/2041-8205/765/1/L17.

Complete list


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