Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

CORDIS Express: Another Earth? Exoplanet exploration

This edition of CORDIS Express takes a look at research efforts supporting the race to discover and understand exoplanets.
CORDIS Express: Another Earth? Exoplanet exploration
Since the first exoplanet was discovered back in 1995 by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, astronomers have been ferociously searching for new worlds. In the past 20 years, 5 000 more have been added to the list, almost 2 000 of which are confirmed.

Exoplanets are, according to NASA, one of the most exciting and important topics in astronomy today. And precisely what makes the exoplanet hunt so exciting is the fact that a sizable portion of discoveries are small, rocky planets like our own – this means that astronomers may actually be on the cusp of finding another Earth. Indeed, earlier this year, researchers at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society announced that they had discovered eight new potentially habitable planets, including some close to Earth in size and situation.

EU researchers have been keenly involved in exoplanet exploration. The COROT mission, launched by the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) in France and the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2006, was the first space mission designed to search for transiting exoplanets, and provided dozens of new exoplanet discoveries, including the first ‘temperate gas giant exoplanet’ to be observed. NASA praised the mission for producing some of the most detailed exoplanet studies yet published.

Just this week, ESA announced that exoplanets are in the running to be the subject of its next mission. Meanwhile EU-researchers, funded under FP7 and Horizon 2020, are delving into every aspect of the subject to try to discover more about these other worlds – worlds which may actually not be so different from our own.

- Atmospheric Characterisation of Exoplanets

- Insights into cloudy exoplanet atmospheres

- Worlds beyond our solar system

- Exoplanets in Transit and their Atmosphere

- Trending science: Three finalists vie to become concept for next ESA mission

Source: Based on information from ESA, NASA and CORDIS.

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