Babbage: Hunting for life elsewhere—part one, Didier Queloz

As they stare up into the night sky, astronomers have long wondered whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. For decades, the hunt for extraterrestrial life has focused on Mars, Venus and even on the various moons of our solar system. But in 1995, that search entered a new phase, when Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor found the first clear evidence of a planet orbiting another star: 51 Pegasi b. Since then, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been found. This week, Alok Jha asks Nobel laureate Dider Queloz, how the “exoplanet revolution” has influenced the search for life elsewhere.

Dider Queloz is the founding director of the Center for the Origin and Prevalence of Life at ETH Zurich and the director of the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at the University of Cambridge. We also hear from Emily Mitchell, the co-director of the Leverhulme Centre, on what an international collaboration of scientists called the “Origins Federation” has set out to study. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.

This is the first of two episodes on the grand scientific quest to search for life beyond Earth. Next time, we’ll explore the European Space Agency’s mission to Jupiter’s icy moons: JUICE.

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