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Exploring Shortcuts for the Characterization of the Atmospheres of Planets similar to Earth


The question of whether or not there is life elsewhere in the Universe has recently taken a giant leap forward with the detection of several nearby Earth-sized, temperate exoplanets. Future ground and space-based telescopes such as the European-Extremely Large Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope and LUVOIR will theoretically be able to perform the first characterization of the atmosphere of these potentially habitable planets. Yet, the implementation of these telescopes is either risky, far in the future, or both. The ESCAPE project aims to investigate possible shortcuts for the characterization of the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets with existing ground and space-based telescopes, thanks to innovative combinations of observing techniques and instruments. The first objective is to investigate the possibility to detect and characterize an atmosphere around the recently discovered planet Proxima b – the closest exoplanet from us – with the high-contrast/high-resolution technique, using an adaptive optics system coupled to a high-resolution spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope. The second objective of the project is to calculate whether or not the signature (absorption lines) of a thick hydrogen/helium envelope around a habitable planet can be detected by (i) the Hubble Space Telescope and/or (ii) high-precision spectrographs mounted on ground-based telescopes. The general strategy is to use a sophisticated Global Climate Model – previously co-developed and used by the fellow – in combination with numerical models of exoplanet’s observability – developed at the University of Geneva, the host institution – to assess the possibility to make the first observations of potentially habitable planets. This project will provide pathfinder results that will further be used (1) to propose original observations of Earth-like exoplanets with existing telescopes and (2) to influence the development of the next generation of giant telescopes and their instruments.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/observational astronomy
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/optics
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/planetary science/planets/exoplanetology
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/observational astronomy/optical astronomy
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/planetary science/planets

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Rue Du General Dufour 24
1211 Geneve
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 191 149,44