skip to content

Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe


Characterising the distribution of habitable planets beyond the Solar System

The discovery of exoplanets, placing our Solar System as one amongst countless planetary systems, opened a Pandora’s box of questions about the uniqueness of the Solar System and the prospect of life on extrasolar worlds. A prerequisite to explore the origin of life in the Universe is establishing a coherent model to test the habitability of exoplanets across their vast diversity of system configurations, ages, compositions, and climates. This is especially true for temperate planets orbiting close to small and cooler stars (M dwarfs), which are ubiquitous but experience very different surface irradiation. For this purpose we need to gain deeper insights about the internal structure, atmosphere and geochemical conditions on these exoplanets. 

Our work focuses on: the development and implementation of ground-based high-precision Doppler surveys to discover nearby habitable-zone planets conducive for life, high-precision atmospheric remote sensing of habitable-zone exoplanets, the development of dedicated space missions to enable detections of biosignatures in Earth-like exoplanets, and the development of robust modeling and theoretical frameworks to relate the atmospheric and surface properties observable on exoplanet systems at various stages with the underlying geochemical and biotic/prebiotic processes.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt, T. Pyle (IPAC)