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SPECULOOS Report Summary

Project ID: 336480
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Mid-Term Report Summary - SPECULOOS (SPECULOOS: searching for habitable planets amenable for biosignatures detection around the nearest ultra-cool stars)

SPECULOOS is an ambitious astronomy project aiming to detect terrestrial planets orbiting the smallest and dimmest stars of the solar neighborhood. It focuses on these "ultra-cool dwarf" stars because their Jupiter-like sizes and their extreme faintness make possible the detailed study of the atmospheric composition of Earth-sized planets with current technology, provided that the planets "transit", i.e. pass periodically in front of the star as seen from Earth. The ultimate goal of the project is to detect potentially habitable exoplanets well-suited for the detection of chemical traces of life with existing and near-to-come astronomical facilites, i.e. to provide humanity with first opportunities to find life outside our solar system. To achieve this ambitious goal, SPECULOOS is based on a network of robotic telescopes spread around the worlds, two of them being funded by the ERC.
Its scientific potential has just been demonstrated by its detection of a system of three temperate Earth-sized planets transiting an ultra-cool dwarf star less than 40 light-years away. These planets are the first potentially habitable extrasolar worlds amenable for detailed studies able to reveal the existence of life on their surfaces. SPECULOOS should find many more planets of this kind, and one of them could eventually reveal that life is ubiquitous in the Galaxy.

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