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Kevin Heng

I am a tenured professor of astronomy and planetary science at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the director of its Center for Space and Habitability (CSH). My research interests are broadly in the theory, simulation and phenomenology of the atmospheres of exoplanets. I am the author of the second textbook on the subject, "Exoplanetary Atmospheres: Theoretical Concepts & Foundations," which was published by Princeton University Press in 2017 and awarded the 2018 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). I am the holder of an European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant (2018-2023). I am co-founder of the Exoplanets conference series together with Professor Didier Queloz. The expertise of my research group includes radiative transfer, atmospheric chemistry, fluid dynamics (general circulation models), atmospheric retrieval, Bayesian inference and machine learning. In 2022, I will be the inaugural chair professor of exoplanet science at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Munich, Germany. More details at

Common Interests Between Bern and Warwick

At the University of Warwick, my role as a honorary professor involves the following overlapping interests with Warwick astronomers:

1. Detection and characterisation of exoplanets;
2. Small bodies around white dwarfs;
3. The TESS, CHEOPS and PLATO space missions;
4. Supporting the activities of Warwick's Center for Exoplanets & Habitability.

I enjoy interacting with students and postdocs, so please feel free to write to me if you wish to explore possible research collaborations or projects.

Current Students

Chloe Fisher, Andrea Guzman Mesa, Kathryn Jones, Sinan Li

Current Postdocs

Russell Deitrick, Simon Grimm, Kaustubh Hakim, Daniel Kitzmann, Brett Morris

Former Students & Postdocs (in Academia)

Chloe Fisher (SNF Postdoc Mobility Fellowship at University of Oxford, Aigrain & Birkby groups)
Jens Hoeijmakers (assistant professor at Lund University)
Pierre Auclair-Desrotour (permanent CNAP researcher at Paris Observatory)
Matej Malik (SNF Postdoc Mobility Fellowship at University of Maryland, Kempton group)
Joao Mendonca (permanent senior researcher at Technical University of Denmark, Buchhave group)
Shang-Min "Shami" Tsai (ERC postdoc at University of Oxford, Pierrehumbert group)

Selected Publications

Career: 1 textbook, 100+ peer-reviewed publications (6000+ citations using ADS)

Heng, K., Morris, B., & Kitzmann, D., 2021, Closed-form ab initio solutions of geometric albedos and reflected light phase curves of exoplanets, Nature Astronomy, 5, 1001

Heng, K., & Li, L., 2021, Jupiter as an Exoplanet: Insights from Cassini Phase Curves, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 909, L20

Heng, K., & Althaus, C.L., 2021, The approximately universal shapes of epidemic curves in the Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR) model, Scientific Reports (Springer Nature),10, 19365

Guzman-Mesa, A., Kitzmann, D., Fisher, C., et al., 2020, Information Content Analysis of JWST NIRSpec Transmission Spectra, Astronomical Journal, 160, 15

Auclair-Desrotour, P., & Heng, K., 2020, Atmospheric stability and collapse on tidally locked rocky planets, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 638, A77

Deitrick, R., Mendonca, J.M., Schroffenegger, U., Grimm, S.L., Tsai, S.-M., & Heng, K., 2020, THOR 2.0: Major Improvements to the Open-source General Circulation Model, Astrophysical Journal Supplements, 248, 30

Fisher, C., Hoeijmakers, H.J., Kitzmann, D., et al., 2020, Interpreting High-resolution Spectroscopy of Exoplanets using Cross-correlations and Supervised Machine Learning, Astronomical Journal, 159, 192

Barstow, J.K., & Heng, K., 2020, Outstanding Challenges of Exoplanet Atmospheric Retrievals, Space Science Reviews, 216, 82

Veras, D., & Heng, K., 2020, The lifetimes of planetary debris disks around white dwarfs, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 496, 2292

Kitzmann, D., Heng, K., Oreshenko, M., et al., 2020, Helios-r2 – A new Bayesian, open-source retrieval model for brown dwarfs and exoplanet atmospheres, Astrophysical Journal, 890, 174

Oreshenko, M., Kitzmann, D., Marquez-Neila, P., et al., 2020, Supervised Machine Learning for Intercomparison of Model Grids of Brown Dwarfs: Application to GJ 570D and the Epsilon Indi B Binary System, Astronomical Journal, 159, 6

Heng, K., 2019, On physical interpretations of the reference transit radius of gas-giant exoplanets, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 490, 3378

Marquez-Neila, P., Fisher, C., Sznitman, R., & Heng, K., 2018, Supervised Machine Learning for Analysing Spectra of Exoplanetary Atmospheres, Nature Astronomy, 2, 719

Heng, K., Malik, M., & Kitzmann, D., 2018, Analytical Models of Exoplanetary Atmospheres. VI. Full Solutions for Improved Two-stream Radiative Transfer Including Direct Stellar Beam, Astrophysical Journal Supplements, 237, 29

Hoeijmakers, H.J., Ehrenreich, D., Heng, K., et al., 2018, Atomic iron and titanium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet KELT-9b, Nature, 560, 453

Fisher, C., & Heng, K., 2018, Retrieval analysis of 38 WFC3 transmission spectra and the resolution of the normalisation degeneracy, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 481, 4698

Dorn, C., & Heng, K., 2018, Secondary Atmospheres on HD 219134 b and c, Astrophysical Journal, 853, 64

Heng, K., 2017, Exoplanetary Atmospheres: Theoretical Concepts & Foundations (Princeton University Press)

Heng, K., & Kitzmann, D., 2017, The theory of transmission spectra revisited: a fast method for analyzing WFC3 data and an unresolved challenge, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 470, 2972

Heng, K., & Tsai, S.-M., 2016, Analytical Models of Exoplanetary Atmospheres. III. Gaseous C-H-O-N Chemistry with 9 Molecules, Astrophysical Journal, 829, 104

Heng, K., & Showman, A.P., 2015, Atmospheric Dynamics of Hot Exoplanets, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 43, 509

Heng, K., & Malik, M., 2013, Debris discs around M stars: non-existence versus non-detection, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 452, 2562

Heng, K., Menou, K., & Phillipps, P.J., 2011, Atmospheric circulation of tidally-locked exoplanets: a suite of benchmark tests for dynamical solvers, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 413, 2380

Heng, K., & Kenyon, S.J., 2010, Vortices as Nurseries for Planetesimal Formation in Protoplanetary Discs, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 408, 1476

Heng, K., & Tremaine, S., 2010, Long-Lived Planetesimal Discs, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 401, 867

Heng, K., & Spitkovsky, A., 2009, Magnetohydrodynamic Shallow Water Waves: Linear Analysis, Astrophysical Journal, 703, 1819

Heng, K., & Sunyaev, R., 2008, Broad Ly-alpha Emission from Supernova Remnants, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 481, 117

Heng, K., & McCray, R., 2007, Balmer-Dominated Shocks Revisited, Astrophysical Journal, 654, 923

Kevin Heng

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