The discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets has been data-driven: clearly there
are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. As the demographics of the myriad diverse systems becomes known, we begin to piece together the larger story of their formation and evolution. Ultimately, we seek to understand the prospects for life elsewhere in the Universe. In addition to this scientific quest, ‘exploration’ also plays a role. In particular, the nearest star systems provide an opportunity to explore in detail strange new worlds. The announcement of a planet < 10 Mearth in the liquid-water zone of Proxima Centari sent shock waves through the community. What is the nature of this planetary system found in our own galactic backyard? Could it be habitable? Here we will review plans to try to image small planets from the ground in thermal emission around the nearest stars, including development of a new generation of mid-infrared detectors with high quantum efficiency, low noise, and suitable for ground-based use, as well as instruments planned for the next generation extremely large telescopes such as METIS on the E-ELT. We will also discuss the power of imaging planets both in reflected light and thermal emission, and the possibility of detecting the greenhouse effect in a world outside the Solar System.
Local contact: E. Pantin
Organization: V. Lebouteiller