The interstellar medium hosts physical and chemical processes that precede and accompany the emergence of stars, galaxies, planets and, eventually, life. What are those processes ? How do they end up forming large scale structures, or complex molecules ? How much of the composition of protostars and planets is inherited from these interstellar processes ?

Research topics

The "Interstellaire" team studies the life cycle of matter in our Galaxy, with particular emphasis on : the evolution and heritage of molecular complexity from molecular clouds to protoplanetary discs ; how do stars get their mass, especially massive stars ; the formation of large-scale structure in the Universe ; astrochemistry and the evolution of dust grains.

This long history is mostly probed through the spectroscopic signatures of interstellar atoms, molecules and dust. The team has strong expertise in observations at millimetre and infrared wavelengths, where these signatures are accessible, and leads or has led several large programs using major observatories on the ground (IRAM, ALMA) and in space (Herschel, Planck).

A complementary line of research, critical to the interpretation of the observations, is the theoretical study of the chemical processes at work on microscopic scales using numerical models that predict their effect on the scales of the interstellar medium. Finally, the team is responsible for the reduction pipeline of NIKA2, a new camera observing the mm continuum based on the KID technology and which, amongst other things, will measure the polarisation of dust emission.


Interstellar medium : clouds, dust, cosmic rays, evolution, kinematics and dynamics, lines and bands, magnetic fields, molecules, PDR, structure ; Galaxies : star formation, stellar content, structure, clusters and intracluster medium ; large-scale structure of Universe ; Astrochemistry ; Molecular processes ; Solid state : volatile, refractory.


- Team leader : Frédérique Motte
- Email : frederique.motte (at)
- Telephone : 04 56 52 08 96 (from abroad +33 4 56 52 08 96)