ESOcast 47: Finding Life

Special 50th anniversary episode #7

3 September 2012

Leading up to ESO’s 50th anniversary in October 2012, we are releasing eight special ESOcasts, each a chapter from the movie Europe to the Stars — ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky.

In this special episode – ESOcast 47 overall – we look at one of the greatest quests that astronomers have pursued over the centuries: the search for life in the Universe. ESO has played an important role in this exciting journey.

The ESO 3.6-metre telescope is one of the most successful planet hunters. Thanks to its HARPS spectrograph, astronomers have discovered more than 150 planets. Other important milestones in the study of exoplanets have been reached by the Very Large Telescope (VLT). For instance, a team of astronomers took the very first image of a planet outside the Solar System in 2004 (eso0428). Moreover, astronomers have been also able to analyse the atmosphere of a super-Earth, the planet GJ 1214b, which is 2.6 times larger than the Earth. They were able to characterise the atmosphere of this type of object for the first time and found that this planet is probably a hot and steamy world (eso1047).

The next challenge for planet hunters is to spot Earth-like planets in the habitable zones around nearby stars. Hopefully, when the European Extremely Large Telescope is completed, it may also find evidence for biospheres on these planets: the first fingerprints of life outside the Solar System.

Watch this episode to discover more about ESO’s role in the quest for life in the Universe.

More Information

The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory.

Subscribe to our video podcast now to keep up with the latest news from ESO: the ESOcast is available via iTunes in HD and SD. It’s also available on YouTube, Vimeo and dotSUB and is offered for download in several formats including HD.



An ESO production

Directed by: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Art Direction, Production Design: Martin Kornmesser
Producer: Herbert Zodet
Written by: Govert Schilling
3D animations and graphics: Martin Kornmesser & Luis Calçada
Editing: Martin Kornmesser
Cinematography: Herbert Zodet & Peter Rixner
Sound engineer: Cristian Larrea
Audio Mastering: Peter Rixner
Host & Lead Scientist: Dr J (Dr Joe Liske, ESO)
Narration: Sara Mendes da Costa
Soundtrack & Sound Effects: movetwo — Axel Kornmesser & Markus Löffler & zero-project (
Proof reading: Anne Rhodes
Technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen, Raquel Yumi Shida & Mathias Andre
DVD Authoring: Andre Roquette
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen

Footage and photos:
Christoph Malin (
Babak Tafreshi/TWAN
Stéphane Guisard (
José Francisco Salgado (
Alexandre Santerne
Nick Risinger (
Martin Kornmesser
Herbert Zodet
J. Dommaget/J. Boulon/J. Doornenbal/W. Schlosser/F.K. Edmondson/A. Blaauw/Rademakers/R. Holder
Daniel Crouch/Rare Books (
Getty Images
Royal Astronomical Society/Science Photo Library
Jay M. Pasachoff
Chris de Coning/South African Library/Warner-Madear
Africana Museum/Warner
Leiden University
G. Brammer
Mauricio Anton/Science Library
NASA/Spitzer Science Center/R. Hurt
VISTA/J. Emerson
Digitized Sky Survey 2
MPE/S. Gillessen/M. Schartmann
Rainer Lenzen/MPIA Heidelberg
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Berlin by KolBerlin
Davide De Martin
Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit
IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler and C. Thöne
Mario Nonino, Piero Rosati and the ESO GOODS Team
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
Matthias Maercker
Igor Chekalin
Hans-Hermann  Heyer
Edmund Janssen
Luis Calçada
Scott Kardel
Tom Jarrett,
Kevin Govender
Sergey Stepanenko
T. Preibisch
R. Fosbury (ST-ECF)
OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute
A. Fujii
J.-B. Le Bouquin et al.
D. Coe (STScI)/J. Merten (Heidelberg/Bologna)
Gemini Observatory/NRC/AURA/Christian Marois et al.
M. Janson
Jean-Luc Beuzit
IAC (SMM) and ESPRESSO consortium
T.M. Brown (STScI)
World Wide Telescope


ESOcast HD (High Definition - 1280 x 720)
ESOcast SD (Standard Definition - 640 x 480)

ESOcast HD (High Definition) in iTunes
ESOcast SD (Standard Definition) in iTunes

About the Announcement



Screenshot of ESOcast 47
Screenshot of ESOcast 47


ESOcast 47: Finding Life — Special 50th anniversary episode #7
ESOcast 47: Finding Life — Special 50th anniversary episode #7