Hollywood movies adopt the names of actual exoplanets to enhance the ‘sci’ cred in sci-fi. NASA has opened an Exoplanet Travel Bureau, even if tickets are yet to be available. How close are we to actually detecting extrasolar life? The prospect seems remote, and faces huge technological challenges. Yet, we
already know of other Earth-like planets that orbit in the habitable zones of their host stars. Planets that are temperate enough to preserve liquid water
on their surfaces. The answer may be “surprisingly close!” Perhaps even before you’ve finished university. Simple, ingenious astrophysics is allowing us
to find the best extrasolar planets to search for life. The forthcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may just have the requisite sensitivity to detect it.
Stanimir Metchev is the Canada Research Chair in Extrasolar Planets at the University of Western Ontario. His research spans planets, stars, and
“brown dwarfs”—awkwardly named objects of dual star-/planet-like nature that have been a boon for exoplanetary science. He’ll believe in extraterrestrials when JWST sees them.
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