The search for new Earths
In the second plenary session of the morning, Michel Mayor, the discoverer of the very first exoplanet orbiting sun-like star 51 Pegasi, reviewed the state of play in exoplanet research ahead of a press conference scheduled for later this morning where a new development in exoplanet research will be announced.
Mayor focussed on the success of discovering low mass planets, from "super-Neptunes" down to "super-Earths." The lowest mass planets discovered to date lie between 1.9 and 3 Earth masses. He also commented on the discovery of several exo-solar systems, with one system - 55 Cnc - hosting an impressive five planets. Now the focus will be to look for Earth-sized planets and twin Earths lying in the habitable zone - the region around a star where conditions are favourable for life as we know it on Earth.