During the antiquity, the Greeks developed various instruments for the observation and study of the cosmos – from the astrolabe to the Antikythera mechanism, an analog computer that could predict astronomical positions and develop the star catalogue. Epicurus and other Greek philosophers discussed the question of the “plurality of worlds” in the universe as well as the possibility of the “plurality of inhabited worlds”. Until recently, that question remained a merely philosophical discussion but can modern technology help us realise whether we are alone in the Universe?
Astrophysicist Michel Mayor, Professor Emeritus of the University of Geneva, responsible with Didier Queloz for the discovery of the first exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star, will talk about scientific advances to date, that have detected over 4,000 exoplanets. The galore of data acquired over the last 23 years with more stable and sensitive spectrographs has contributed to understanding the physics of planetary system formation and in particular of our own solar system. In a talk moderated by Orfeu Bertolami – Full Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Porto – the participants will discuss the capabilities of modern technology to detect Earth-like planets and the scientific objectives underpinning the instruments currently being developed. Is it realistic to detect life signatures on extra-solar planets?