Thursday, May 6, 2021, the Twitch channel of Science and the Future will be invited by Franck Selsis, CNRS researcher at the Bordeaux Observatory and specialist in exoplanets. He will discuss how we realized that there are many planets in our Galaxy – the Milky Way – how we track them down, study them. And what that implies for the search for a life elsewhere.
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“The quest for exoplanets has become a major part of astrophysics”
Since the discovery of the first exoplanet, more than 25 years ago, by Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, there have been nearly 5,000 exoplanets located in 3,500 planetary systems. An exciting proliferation that gave rise to multiple scientific questions: What is a habitable environment? How many planets and such environments are there in the Galaxy and in the Universe? How do we detect these stars and these environments? Part of research in astronomy today is focused on these questions. To use a quote from Michel Mayor: “The quest for exoplanets has become a major part of astrophysics”.
According to models, it is estimated that each of the hundred billion stars in our galaxy is home to an average of two planets. Much remains therefore to be found and characterized. But the known planetary systems already show that the Solar System seems quite special. To detect these rocky or gaseous stars around stars, very precise measurements are taken. In addition to their detection, we are starting to study their atmospheres in search of water for example, or other biosignatures that would inform us about the conditions prevailing on their surface. New telescopes and innovative research programs offer hope of finding a “habitable” planet that resembles Earth. Astrophysicists are quite confident that such exoterres will be found in the decades to come. Come ask all the questions that will come to your mind on this topical quest.