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Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd (1945–2022)

Levasseur-Regourd was an internationally recognized expert on cometary and interplanetary dust. She participated in the ESA Giotto and Rosetta missions, and also ESA’s Comet Interceptor due to be launched in 2029.

Published onNov 14, 2022
Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd (1945–2022)

Photo courtesy of the authors, from LATMOS.

With great sadness we inform the planetary science community that Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd passed away on Monday, August 1, 2022. She was 77.

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd (ACLR, as she liked to call herself) combined in her work ground-based and space-based observations as well as laboratory and numerical simulations to better understand the physical properties of cometary and interplanetary dust. She was appointed a professor of astronomy and space physics at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) in 1985 and became professor emeritus in 2013, combining teaching activities with the research at the Service d'Aéronomie and, since 2009, Laboratoire Atmosphères, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS) institute. In 1977, she applied to the ESA astronaut selection campaign and was the only woman selected amongst the final participants.

She started her research with studies of the interplanetary medium and derived the first global map in intensity and polarization of the zodiacal light, providing constraints on the local physical properties of the interplanetary dust particles.

ACLR participated in the international campaign of Halley’s comet both with observations from the ground and as the PI of the Optical Probe Experiment (OPE) on-board the European Giotto spacecraft, which observed the linear polarization in the inner coma of the comet. Results showed the presence of low-density solid particles and light scattering mostly by large particles.

She continued her work on the study of light scattering by irregular particles by developing facilities in the laboratory and in microgravity (such as PROGRA2, CODAG and ICAPS-LSU) to simultaneously study the intensity and polarization of aggregated particles. A reduced version of the ICAPS experiment will soon fly on-board a TEXUS rocket.

ACLR participated in the Rosetta mission, focusing on determining the physical properties of the cometary nucleus and dust particles. She actively participated in the development of the EnVisS camera, a multiwavelength polarimetric imager of the ESA Comet Interceptor spacecraft due to be launched in 2029.

She supervised seven Ph.D. students. She was particularly enthusiastic about supporting the recognition and advancement of her female colleagues. Anny-Chantal published five outreach books on astronomy and gave popular TV lectures. She was the President of the French Committee for the organization of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Asteroid 6170 is named Levasseur in her honor. In recognition of her scientific work, she was appointed Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 2013 and was awarded the following prizes: prix Thorlet de l’Académie des sciences (1976), prix Glaxo de vulgarisation scientifique (1982), prix des Dames de la Société Astronomique de France (1986).

She was the mother of Estelle and Isabelle, and the grandmother of Charlotte, Alice, Theodor, Thomas, Anna and Leonard.

Adapted and reproduced from the DPS Newsletter with permission of the authors, who were Levasseur-Regourd’s Ph.D. students.

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