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Searching for Habitable Worlds around Nearby very-low-mass Stars

WBI – Wallonie-Bruxelles International | Michaël Gillon, Heike Rauer

Is There Life Beyond Our Solar System?


Professors Michaël Gillon and Heike Rauer will take us on a voyage of discovery into space on Thursday 3 November 2022, at a conference to be held at the Belgian Embassy in Berlin as part of Berlin Science Week.

This conference, organised by Wallonie-Bruxelles International in close collaboration with the Délégation Générale Wallonie-Bruxelles in Berlin, questions the discovery of planets with characteristics similar to those of our Earth that could harbour life forms. This conference is part of Wallonia-Brussels’ programme for Berlin Science Week, an international scientific event in which world-renowned scientists are participating. And Wallonia-Brussels has some exceptional ones.

What is about ?

Since the end of the last century, thousands of planets have been detected in orbit around other stars than the Sun. A few dozens of these exoplanets are said to be “potentially habitable”, i.e. they could be rocky worlds harboring oceans of water on their surface, like our Earth. Imagining complex forms of life on some of these planets is but a small step away, one that is happily crossed by science-fiction. But our imagination is about to be replaced by real scientific measurements, as we now have the instrumental means to probe the atmospheric compositions of some of these extrasolar worlds in orbit around nearby very-low-mass stars.  So far, the best targets for such atmospheric studies are the seven Earth-sized planets found a few years ago around TRAPPIST-1, a tiny red dwarf star 40 light-years away.

Michaël Gillon, the Belgian astrophysicist who led the discovery of this planetary system, will tell us everything about it and will explain us how the study of exoplanets is bringing us closer and closer to an answer to the fascinating question Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?

He will be supported in its Lecture by Prof Dr. Heike Rauer (German Aerospace Centre (DLR) /Head of the Institute of Planetary Research (Freie Universität Berlin) who will focus on the expected contributions coming from ESA´s PLATO mission.


18:00 – 18:30: Welcome

18:30 – 18:35: Opening remarks

Alexander Homann – Leiter der Vertretung Ostbelgiens, der Föderation Wallonie-Brüssel und der Wallonie  in Berlin,
Mathieu Quintyn, Wallonia-Bruxelles International – Science and Technology Counsellor – Germany

18:35 – 20:00: Lectures (+ questions) – Is There Life Beyond Our Solar System?

Prof Dr. Michaël GILLON – astrophysicist and FNRS Research Director at the University of Liege, Belgium
Prof. Dr. Heike RAUER –  German Aerospace Centre (DLR) /Head of the Institute of Planetary Research (Freie Universität Berlin)

20:00 – 22:00 – The « Belgian Taste » Buffet.

The event will be followed by Belgian food and “TRAPPIST” beers (Walking dinner) :-)


This is an in-person event. If you would like to attend, please register until the 28th of October here.

You can find out more information about the event and the organizers here.

About the Venue
Embassy of BELGIUM
Jägerstraße 52-53
Berlin, 10117
+49 30 206420

Michaël Gillon

University of Liège

Michaël Gillon is astrophysicist and FNRS Research Director at the University of Liege, Belgium. He conducts his researches on the detection and the study of exoplanets, with a special focus on potentially habitable planets in orbit around nearby very-low-mass stars. He is the initiator and the Principal Investigator of the TRAPPIST and SPECULOOS exoplanet projects, and a member of several international exoplanet projects. His significant contribution to the study of exoplanets and the quest for life elsewhere in the Universe has been awarded by several awards like the prestigious Balzan and Francqui Prizes and a nomination to the Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Heike Rauer

Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Freie Universität Berlin

“Heike Rauer is an astrophysicist, head of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin and professor at the Department of Geosciences at the Freie University, where she specialised in planetology. Since 2013, Rauer has been Head of the instrument consortium for the ESA space telescope PLATO, which will survey the Milky Way for planets, in particular Earth-like planets, from 2026. She is a member of the science team in the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a network of 12 automatically operating telescopes that search for exoplanets at Paranal Observatory, which is part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. She was Germany’s representative and co-investigator in the space telescope project CoRoT of CNES and ESA from 2006 to 2014. She was also part of the team for the MIRO microwave spectrometer on the Rosetta mission that was used to identify cometary gases.”

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