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See detailPlanet Formation Imager (PFI): Introduction and technical considerations
Monnier, J. D.; Kraus, S.; Buscher, D. et al

in Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering (2014), 9146

Complex non-linear and dynamic processes lie at the heart of the planet formation process. Through numerical simulation and basic observational constraints, the basics of planet formation are now coming ... [more ▼]

Complex non-linear and dynamic processes lie at the heart of the planet formation process. Through numerical simulation and basic observational constraints, the basics of planet formation are now coming into focus. High resolution imaging at a range of wavelengths will give us a glimpse into the past of our own solar system and enable a robust theoretical framework for predicting planetary system architectures around a range of stars surrounded by disks with a diversity of initial conditions. Only long-baseline interferometry can provide the needed angular resolution and wavelength coverage to reach these goals and from here we launch our planning efforts. The aim of the "Planet Formation Imager" (PFI) project is to develop the roadmap for the construction of a new near-/mid-infrared interferometric facility that will be optimized to unmask all the major stages of planet formation, from initial dust coagulation, gap formation, evolution of transition disks, mass accretion onto planetary embryos, and eventual disk dispersal. PFI will be able to detect the emission of the cooling, newlyformed planets themselves over the first 100 Myrs, opening up both spectral investigations and also providing a vibrant look into the early dynamical histories of planetary architectures. Here we introduce the Planet Formation Imager (PFI) Project (www.planetformationimager.org) and give initial thoughts on possible facility architectures and technical advances that will be needed to meet the challenging top-level science requirements. © 2014 SPIE. [less ▲]

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See detailThe science case for the Planet Formation Imager (PFI)
Kraus, S.; Monnier, J.; Harries, T. et al

in Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering (2014), 9146

Among the most fascinating and hotly-debated areas in contemporary astrophysics are the means by which planetary systems are assembled from the large rotating disks of gas and dust which attend a stellar ... [more ▼]

Among the most fascinating and hotly-debated areas in contemporary astrophysics are the means by which planetary systems are assembled from the large rotating disks of gas and dust which attend a stellar birth. Although important work has already been, and is still being done both in theory and observation, a full understanding of the physics of planet formation can only be achieved by opening observational windows able to directly witness the process in action. The key requirement is then to probe planet-forming systems at the natural spatial scales over which material is being assembled. By definition, this is the so-called Hill Sphere which delineates the region of influence of a gravitating body within its surrounding environment. The Planet Formation Imager project (PFI; http://www.planetformationimager.org) has crystallized around this challenging goal: to deliver resolved images of Hill-Sphere-sized structures within candidate planethosting disks in the nearest star-forming regions. In this contribution we outline the primary science case of PFI. For this purpose, we briefly review our knowledge about the planet-formation process and discuss recent observational results that have been obtained on the class of transition disks. Spectro-photometric and multi-wavelength interferometric studies of these systems revealed the presence of extended gaps and complex density inhomogeneities that might be triggered by orbiting planets. We present detailed 3-D radiation-hydrodynamic simulations of disks with single and multiple embedded planets, from which we compute synthetic images at near-infrared, mid-infrared, far-infrared, and sub-millimeter wavelengths, enabling a direct comparison of the signatures that are detectable with PFI and complementary facilities such as ALMA. From these simulations, we derive some preliminary specifications that will guide the array design and technology roadmap of the facility. © 2014 SPIE. [less ▲]

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See detailTechnology for a Mid-IR Flagship Mission to Characterize Earth-like Exoplanets
Lawson, P. R.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Akeson, R. L. et al

E-print/Working paper (2009)

The exploration of Earth-like exoplanets will be enabled at mid-infrared wavelengths through technology and engineering advances in nulling interferometry and precision formation flying. Nulling ... [more ▼]

The exploration of Earth-like exoplanets will be enabled at mid-infrared wavelengths through technology and engineering advances in nulling interferometry and precision formation flying. Nulling interferometry provides the dynamic range needed for the detection of biomarkers. Formation flying provides the angular resolution required in the mid-infrared to separately distinguish the spectra of planets in multi-planet systems. The flight performance requirements for nulling have been met and must now be validated in a flight-like environment. Formation-flying algorithms have been demonstrated in the lab and must now be validated in space. Our proposed technology program is described. [less ▲]

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See detailDarwin-A Mission to Detect and Search for Life on Extrasolar Planets
Cockell, C. S.; Léger, A.; Fridlund, M. et al

in Astrobiology (2009), 9(1)

The discovery of extrasolar planets is one of the greatest achievements of modern astronomy. The detection of planets that vary widely in mass demonstrates that extrasolar planets of low mass exist. In ... [more ▼]

The discovery of extrasolar planets is one of the greatest achievements of modern astronomy. The detection of planets that vary widely in mass demonstrates that extrasolar planets of low mass exist. In this paper, we describe a mission, called Darwin, whose primary goal is the search for, and characterization of, terrestrial extrasolar planets and the search for life. Accomplishing the mission objectives will require collaborative science across disciplines, including astrophysics, planetary sciences, chemistry, and microbiology. Darwin is designed to detect rocky planets similar to Earth and perform spectroscopic analysis at mid-infrared wavelengths (6-20 mum), where an advantageous contrast ratio between star and planet occurs. The baseline mission is projected to last 5 years and consists of approximately 200 individual target stars. Among these, 25-50 planetary systems can be studied spectroscopically, which will include the search for gases such as CO[SUB]2[/SUB], H[SUB]2[/SUB]O, CH[SUB]4[/SUB], and O[SUB]3[/SUB]. Many of the key technologies required for the construction of Darwin have already been demonstrated, and the remainder are estimated to be mature in the near future. Darwin is a mission that will ignite intense interest in both the research community and the wider public. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Darwin Ground-based European Nulling Interferometry Experiment
Gondoin, P.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Fridlund, M. et al

in Lacoste, H. (Ed.) GENIE - DARWIN Workshop - Hunting for Planets (2003, March 01)

Darwin is one of the most challenging space pro jects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal ob jectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars and to characterise ... [more ▼]

Darwin is one of the most challenging space pro jects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal ob jectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars and to characterise their atmospheres. Darwin is conceived as a space nulling interferometer" which makes use of on-axis destructive interferences to extinguish the stellar light while keeping the o -axis signal of the orbiting planet. Within the frame of the Darwin program, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) intend to build a ground-based technology demonstrator called GENIE (Ground based European Nulling Interferometry Experiment). Such a ground-based demonstrator built around the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) in Paranal will test some of the key technologies required for the Darwin Infrared Space Interferometer. It will demonstrate that nulling interferometry can be achieved in a broad mid-IR band as a precursor to the next phase of the Darwin program. The present paper will describe the ob jectives and the status of the project. [less ▲]

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See detailDarwin ground-based European nulling interferometer experiment (GENIE)
Gondoin, Philippe; Absil, Olivier ULg; Fridlund, C V Malcolm et al

in Traub, Wesley (Ed.) Interferometry for Optical Astronomy II (2003, February 01)

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars and to characterize ... [more ▼]

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars and to characterize their atmospheres. Darwin is conceived as a space "nulling interferometer" which makes use of on-axis destructive interferences to extinguish the stellar light while keeping the off-axis signal of the orbiting planet. Within the frame of the Darwin program, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) intend to build a ground-based technology demonstrator called GENIE (Ground based European Nulling Interferometry Experiment). Such a ground-based demonstrator built around the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) in Paranal will test some of the key technologies required for the Darwin Infrared Space Interferometer. It will demonstrate that nulling interferometry can be achieved in a broad mid-IR band as a precursor to the next phase of the Darwin program. The present paper will describe the objectives and the status of the project. [less ▲]

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See detailCandidate VLTI Configurations for the GENIE Nulling Experiment
Absil, Olivier ULg; Gondoin, P.; Erd, C. et al

in Deming, Drake; Seager, Sara (Eds.) Scientific Frontiers in Research on Extrasolar Planets (2003)

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) initiate a definition study for a Ground-based European Nulling Interferometer Experiment (Darwin-GENIE). The experiment will ... [more ▼]

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) initiate a definition study for a Ground-based European Nulling Interferometer Experiment (Darwin-GENIE). The experiment will use the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) operating on Mount Paranal (Chile). The objective of GENIE is to gain experience in the manufacture and operation of a nulling interferometer using a design concept and technology representative of the ESA IRSI-Darwin space mission. GENIE will prepare the IRSI-Darwin science program through a systematic search for exozodiacal dust clouds around IRSI-Darwin candidate targets. GENIE also aims to perform IRSI-Darwin related science achievable from ground including the detection of low-mass companions (if possible, hot jupiters) around nearby stars. Among the variety of telescope sizes and positions on the VLTI site, candidate interferometric configurations have been identified for GENIE, taking into account the limitation imposed by the Earth's atmosphere. They include a Bracewell interferometer for exozodiacal clouds detection in the N band and a double Bracewell configuration with internal modulation for extrasolar jupiter detection in the L' band. The present paper presents the prospective performance of these configurations in light of current specifications of major VLTI subsystems. [less ▲]

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