Recent EDEN Posts

EDEN Pilot Survey Receives Telescope Time

December 23, 2017

EDEN Launch

June 8, 2017

Project EDEN’s goal is to discover and explore the habitable planets closest to us.

Daniel Apai

Over the past two decades more than four thousand extrasolar planets have been discovered, giving rise to a new scientific field: extrasolar planets. However, due to the methods utilized, over 95% of these worlds are at great distances, typically several thousand lightyears from Earth. Most of these planets are simply too distant to characterize in detail via remote sensing.

Somewhat counterintuitively, most planetary systems in the direct vicinity of the Sun remain unexplored. Although techniques exist to find planets around the closest stars, they have not been a focus of a systematic search.

Yet, these planetary systems closest to us are the ones that will be studied in the future in details and, perhaps, in the distant future may even be visited by probes or manned space missions.

EDEN is a research project aiming to lead and support research to identify and characterize habitable planets within 50 lightyears.

NASA’s Kepler mission demonstrated that planetary systems are extremely common – we now expect that most stars in the Galaxy are surrounded by planetary systems. Kepler also showed that small planets (Earth and Super-Earth sized) are more common than gas giant planets. The best estimates for the occurrence rates of habitable zone earth-sized planets around sun-like stars is about 50%, and for lower-mass stars this value is likely to be even higher: most red dwarf stars are expected to have one or more habitable zone, approximately earth-sized planets. With about 1,000 stars within 50 lightyears, we expect about 1,000 habitable zone earth-sized planets, and probably another 3,000 non-habitable zone planets.

By exploring the habitable planets around the stars closest to the Sun Project EDEN aims the search for life in the solar neighborhood and leads to the discovery of planets that are close enough to be studied in details. The planets discovered by EDEN are the closest worlds to us – these will be the planets humankind may send probes or perhaps even visit in the distant future.

Planets are very faint compared to the host stars and – due to the great distances – appear very close to them. Many planets, in fact, will remain undetectable for the next years. Still, many of the nearby planets are detectable via three exoplanet hunting methods: planetary transits, high-contrast imaging, and stellar radial velocity measurements. Not all of these methods require powerful telescopes and expensive instrumentation: in fact, the most exciting currently known exoplanetary system TRAPPIST-1 – which hosts three earth-sized planets in its habitable zone – was found with a relatively small research telescope equipped with a standard astronomical camera. Project EDEN plans to use all three methods, but focuses on the transit method in its first stage.

Project EDEN exploits state-of-the-art knowledge and methods in astrophysics, planetary sciences, and astrobiology to search for and characterize the closest habitable worlds.



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