To project overview

Lars A. Buchhave

Distinguished Associate Professor Fellowship

The Path Towards Detecting Biomarkers in the Atmospheres of Exoplanets

Why:

Recent advances in the exoplanet field has revealed that Earth-sized planets are ubiquitous, orbiting the majority of stars in our astronomical backyard. This prevalence of Earth-like planets allows detecting, studying and characterizing planets orbiting the closest and brightest stars in the sky that are most amenable to characterization. This will allow us to understand and characterize the diversity of environments of the smaller planets down to the size of the Earth and ultimately allow us to search for signs of life in their atmospheres.

How:

Much work is needed to build the scientific foundation and develop the insight necessary to obtain and interpret observations of biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets. In this project, I address two key areas of research where the need for progress is crucial, namely 1) precise mass measurements of small planets to understand their composition and structure and 2) observation and characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres to advance our insight into their diversity and composition. Progress in these two areas has been enabled by two recent massive allocations of prime observing time.

What:

One of the greatest questions in the history of mankind is whether life exists elsewhere in the Universe. Remarkably, a clear path towards resolving this tantalizing question has emerged and the answer is within reach in the foreseeable future. The research funded by the Carlsberg Foundation will help pave the way towards the ultimate goal of detecting signs of life outside our own Earth – a discovery that will have profound implications not only in the scientific community but for the general population.