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European Research Council (ERC) Projects Behind Exoplanets Discovery

There is also the EU, and in particular the European Research Council (ERC), behind the revolutionary discovery announced this week by NASA about potentially inhabitable exoplanets.

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas commented; “This ground-breaking discovery shows that international collaboration and the crucial support from European Commission take us closer to one of the most fascinating quests – to find life beyond our solar system. Congratulations to Belgian Michaël Gillon and his international team. Thanks to the EU funding through the European Research Council, he has paved the way to this revolutionary discovery.”.

ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said: “The international team of astronomers who announced this major breakthrough includes several ERC grantees among whom Michaël Gillon. The ERC is proud to have contributed to this incredible discovery through its support to parts of their ambitious research. This shows both that global cooperation is paying off and that Europe knows how to anticipate winners.”

This 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.

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