Are We Alone?

Artist impression of the ELTThe ELT is taking astronomy a step further. As a 39-metre telescope with the adaptive optics concept built in, the ELT will lead to many breakthroughs in the field.

The ELT has embraced the quest for extrasolar planets — planets orbiting other stars. This will include not only the discovery of planets down to Earth-like masses through indirect measurements of the wobbling motion of stars perturbed by the planets that orbit them, but also the direct imaging of larger planets and possibly even the characterisation of their atmospheres.

Furthermore, the ELT's suite of instruments will allow astronomers to probe the earliest stages of the formation of planetary systems and to detect water and organic molecules in protoplanetary discs around stars in the making. Thus, the ELT will answer fundamental questions regarding planet formation and evolution and will bring us one step closer to answering the question: are we alone? Apart from the obvious scientific interest, this would represent a major breakthrough for humanity.