Are We Alone? Looking for Life Outside Our Solar System
When it comes to the study of space, one of the big remaining questions is whether we are alone in the Universe. Dr. Jason Rowe’s research will take us one step closer to answering that question. As Canada Research Chair in Exoplanet Astrophysics, he is discovering and characterizing extrasolar planets to learn if there may be other planets similar to Earth.
Canadian scientists, including Rowe, have played a key role in discovering planets around distant stars. Canada has also made significant investments in infrastructure to further its strength in exoplanetary science. One such investment is a spectrograph built for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The spectrograph, named NIRISS, can detect and characterize the atmosphere of extrasolar planets that may be similar to Earth.
Rowe and his research team use observations from advanced astronomical observatories—such as JWST, the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope, the Canadian BRITE Mission, and NASA's TESS mission—to obtain and interpret measurements of mass, radius, atmosphere, incident flux, composition and evolution for a large sample of planets spanning the Earth to Neptune regime. This work is advancing Canada’s knowledge in the field of exoplanets—planets outside our solar system.
Determining how exoplanets are similar to or different from planets within our solar system, such as Earth, is critical for understanding the evolution of our solar system. It will also provide direction that will support future Canada-led missions and technologies towards understanding extrasolar planets and life in the Universe.