The EU, and in particular the European Research Council (ERC), was behind the revolutionary discovery of potentially inhabitable plantes beyon the solar system. The discovery of the Trappist-1 system was made in the context of ‘SPECULOOS’ (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing Ultra-cOOl Stars), an ambitious project led by Michaël Gillon (University of Liège, Belgium), supported by a Starting grant from the ERC. After this first discovery, SPECULOOS aims to detect more systems of this type, thanks to four telescopes currently being installed on the European Southern Observatory of Paranal (ESO) in Chile that will be able to observe more targets than this prototype. According to Dr Gillon, “SPECULOOS, which will observe ten times as much targets and with greater precision, should detect many more, placing itself at the frontline of research into the search for life elsewhere in the Universe”
These results are published by Nature. Dr Gillon acknowledges the support from the European Research Council for his SPECULOOS project, as well as ERC grantee Jeremy Leconte, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, and Emeline Bolmont, University of Namur, Belgium, and Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), France.
The SPECULOOS project: searching for habitable planets amenable for biosignatures detection around the nearest ultra-cool stars.
Researcher: Michaël Gillon, Universite de Liège, Belgium ERC Starting grant running from 2014 to 2018 Funding: EUR 1.96 million Project website
More information on the observation, in May 2016, of three habitable Earth-like planets: erc.europa.eu/projects-and-results/erc-stories/three-habitable-earth-planets-observed-erc-grantee