Search for Life Beyond the Solar System:

Exoplanets, Biosignatures and Instruments, March 17-21, 2014, Tucson

Greetings, Colossus Project readers.

We welcome your continued comments and interest in the Colossus discussion. This update comes after an exciting "coming out" of the Colossus concept to professional astronomers and extrasolar planet hunters at the EBI2014 meeting in Tucson. The meeting brought together exobiologists, astronomers, SETI groups, and planetary scientists in free-ranging discussions that were both exciting and engaging for most of a week. All of the presentations from this EBI2014 conference are available on the web at NASA Astrobiology institute webpage: EBI2014 talks

The Colossus talk by Jeff Kuhn was on Friday but many of the seminars and discussions from this meeting may be of interest, and we encourage you to learn more about what the professional astronomy community is thinking about the search for life in the universe. Peruse this meeting and form your own opinion, but we can tell you some of the highlights that caught our attention:

1) While the statistics aren't great, there is a developing consensus view that perhaps 25% to 50% of stars have at least one Earth-like planet. It's intriguing to see evidence that "super Earths" of perhaps 2 to 5 Earth radii may be more prevalent than our-size planet.

2) NASA's plans for direct imaging of exoplanets using externally occulted coronagraphs (star shades) or post focus coronagraphs are moving slowly -- there just isn't enough money, and 2+m class telescopes in space won't come close to allowing an exoplanetary "census."

3) The international community hasn't given up on astrometry as a technique for finding lower mass planets in Earth-like orbits, but there's very little interferometry work moving forward.

4) The future for statistical studies of nearby extrasolar planets during the next decade is dependent on probably three space missions, a follow-on to Kepler (K2), TESS, and the European PLATO project. But don't hold your breath because the cream of this research may already have been skimmed by Kepler transit studies.

5) Innovation with transit measurements and remote studies (like polarimetry) may yield surprises and hold promises for the next decade in detection of biosignatures.

In the coming weeks we'll be preparing "outings" for Colossus for the SPIE and Optical Society of America meetings in Montreal and Hawaii, but we're also gearing up to maintain a running blog-site where your questions are answered, and news nuggets related to Colossus will be brought to you. Stay tuned.

Watch talk on the Colossus at EBI2014: Colossus at EBI2014

EBI2014 conference photo

Talk on the Colossus at EBI2014