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See detailInfrared Detection and Characterization of Debris Disks, Exozodiacal Dust, and Exoplanets: The FKSI Mission Concept
Danchi, W. C.; Barry, R. K.; Lopez, B. et al

in Coudé du Foresto, Vincent; Gelino, Dawn; Ribas, Ignasi (Eds.) Pathways Towards Habitable Planets (2010, October 01)

The Fourier-Kelvin Stellar Interferometer (FKSI) is a mission concept for a nulling interferometer for the near-to-mid-infrared spectral region. FKSI is conceived as a mid-sized strategic or Probe class ... [more ▼]

The Fourier-Kelvin Stellar Interferometer (FKSI) is a mission concept for a nulling interferometer for the near-to-mid-infrared spectral region. FKSI is conceived as a mid-sized strategic or Probe class mission. FKSI has been endorsed by the Exoplanet Community Forum 2008 as such a mission and has been costed to be within the expected budget. The current design of FKSI is a two-element nulling interferometer. The two telescopes, separated by 12.5m, are precisely pointed (by small steering mirrors) on the target star. The two path lengths are accurately controlled to be the same to within a few nanometers. A phase shifter/beam combiner (Mach-Zehnder interferometer) produces an output beam consisting of the nulled sum of the target planet’s light and the host star’s light. When properly oriented, the starlight is nulled by a factor of 10[SUP]-4[/SUP], and the planet light is undiminished. Accurate modeling of the signal is used to subtract the residual starlight, permitting the detection of planets much fainter than the host star. The current version of FKSI with 0.5-m apertures and waveband 3-8 μm has the following main capabilities: (1) detect exozodiacal emission levels to that of our own solar system (Solar System Zodi) around nearby F, G, and K stars; (2) characterize spectroscopically the atmospheres of a large number of known non-transiting planets; (3) survey and characterize nearby stars for planets down to 2 R[SUB]earth[/SUB] from just inside the habitable zone and inward. An enhanced version of FKSI with 1-m apertures separated by 20 m and cooled to 40 K, with science waveband 5-15 μm, allows for the detection and characterization of 2 R[SUB]earth[/SUB] super-Earths and smaller planets in the habitable zone around stars within about 30 pc. [less ▲]

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