Searching for life on alien worlds – Phys.Org/ETH Zurich

3 January 2023
This very detailed new artist’s rendering shows the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its dome on Cerro Armazones
This artist’s rendering shows the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its dome on Cerro Armazones, close to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada


Will we ever discover alien life forms? Well an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in the Atacama Desert could help the in the search.

More to the point , will we ever re-kindle the bromance of Elliot and ET?

Felix Würsten, ETH Zurich

Twenty-seven years ago, at the University of Geneva, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz—now a professor at ETH—discovered the first extrasolar planet orbiting a sun-like star. Much has happened since that initial discovery: astronomers have now identified more than 5,000 exoplanets, many of a similar size to Earth, in over 3,700 different planetary systems. With only a tiny portion of the universe analyzed so far, it certainly seems plausible to suggest that life might exist on other planets outside our solar system.

Yet, as any scientist will tell you, a plausible hypothesis is not the same as proof. This has led many researchers to wonder how we might be able to demonstrate the existence of life beyond our solar system. One promising approach is to analyze the atmosphere of exoplanets. By studying the absorption lines in a host star’s optical spectrum, scientists can determine which molecules are present in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, at least in the case of larger planets.

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…Quanz has teamed up with other researchers to develop an instrument for the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

Construction of the ELT in Chile’s Atacama Desert is currently underway and once operational, the telescope’s 39-meter mirror will massively enhance the ability of astronomers to peer deeper into space.

Felix Würsten, ETH Zurich
Motorcade with President John F Kennedy just prior to his assassination
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