We are living at a pivotal time in human history, as technology is advancing to the point that we will be able to answer one of the most fundamental questions: Are we alone in the universe? This quest alone justifies the investment of billions of dollars in robotic exploration of our solar system and the construction of powerful astronomical observatories on Earth and in space.
Since the discovery in 1995 of the 1st planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, astronomers have confirmed the existence of several thousand exoplanets. Thousands of additional candidates have been identified, including rocky Earth-like planets. Over the coming decade, the new generation of telescopes and instruments will allow us to probe the atmosphere of extrasolar planets similar to ours for the first time, looking for water vapour and perhaps even signatures of biological activity like oxygen, ozone and methane.
The Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx) brings together top researchers and their students so as to benefit as much as possible from major current and upcoming observation projects, with the ultimate goal of finding life elsewhere. The Institute is devoted to exploring new worlds and seeking life on other planets.