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See detailThe PLATO 2.0 Mission
Rauer, H.; Catala, C.; Aerts, C. et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2014)

PLATO 2.0 has recently been selected for ESA’s M3 launch opportunity (2022/24). Providing accurate key planet parameters (radius, mass, density and age) in statistical numbers, it addresses fundamental ... [more ▼]

PLATO 2.0 has recently been selected for ESA’s M3 launch opportunity (2022/24). Providing accurate key planet parameters (radius, mass, density and age) in statistical numbers, it addresses fundamental questions such as: How do planetary systems form and evolve? Are there other systems with planets like ours, including potentially habitable planets? The PLATO 2.0 instrument consists of 34 small aperture telescopes (32 with 25 s readout cadence and 2 with 2.5 s candence) providing a wide field-of-view (2232 deg 2) and a large photometric magnitude range (4–16 mag). It focusses on bright (4–11 mag) stars in wide fields to detect and characterize planets down to Earth-size by photometric transits, whose masses can then be determined by ground-based radial-velocity follow-up measurements. Asteroseismology will be performed for these bright stars to obtain highly accurate stellar parameters, including masses and ages. The combination of bright targets and asteroseismology results in high accuracy for the bulk planet parameters: 2 %, 4–10 % and 10 % for planet radii, masses and ages, respectively. The planned baseline observing strategy includes two long pointings (2–3 years) to detect and bulk characterize planets reaching into the habitable zone (HZ) of solar-like stars and an additional step-and-stare phase to cover in total about 50 % of the sky. PLATO 2.0 will observe up to 1,000,000 stars and detect and characterize hundreds of small planets, and thousands of planets in the Neptune to gas giant regime out to the HZ. It will therefore provide the first large-scale catalogue of bulk characterized planets with accurate radii, masses, mean densities and ages. This catalogue will include terrestrial planets at intermediate orbital distances, where surface temperatures are moderate. Coverage of this parameter range with statistical numbers of bulk characterized planets is unique to PLATO 2.0. The PLATO 2.0 catalogue allows us to e.g.: - complete our knowledge of planet diversity for low-mass objects, - correlate the planet mean density-orbital distance distribution with predictions from planet formation theories,- constrain the influence of planet migration and scattering on the architecture of multiple systems, and - specify how planet and system parameters change with host star characteristics, such as type, metallicity and age. The catalogue will allow us to study planets and planetary systems at different evolutionary phases. It will further provide a census for small, low-mass planets. This will serve to identify objects which retained their primordial hydrogen atmosphere and in general the typical characteristics of planets in such low-mass, low-density range. Planets detected by PLATO 2.0 will orbit bright stars and many of them will be targets for future atmosphere spectroscopy exploring their atmosphere. Furthermore, the mission has the potential to detect exomoons, planetary rings, binary and Trojan planets. The planetary science possible with PLATO 2.0 is complemented by its impact on stellar and galactic science via asteroseismology as well as light curves of all kinds of variable stars, together with observations of stellar clusters of different ages. This will allow us to improve stellar models and study stellar activity. A large number of well-known ages from red giant stars will probe the structure and evolution of our Galaxy. Asteroseismic ages of bright stars for different phases of stellar evolution allow calibrating stellar age-rotation relationships. Together with the results of ESA’s Gaia mission, the results of PLATO 2.0 will provide a huge legacy to planetary, stellar and galactic science. [less ▲]

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See detailORIGIN: metal creation and evolution from the cosmic dawn
den Herder, Jan-Willem; Piro, Luigi; Ohashi, Takaya et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2012), 34

ORIGIN is a proposal for the M3 mission call of ESA aimed at the study of metal creation from the epoch of cosmic dawn. Using high-spectral resolution in the soft X-ray band, ORIGIN will be able to ... [more ▼]

ORIGIN is a proposal for the M3 mission call of ESA aimed at the study of metal creation from the epoch of cosmic dawn. Using high-spectral resolution in the soft X-ray band, ORIGIN will be able to identify the physical conditions of all abundant elements between C and Ni to red-shifts of z = 10, and beyond. The mission will answer questions such as: When were the first metals created? How does the cosmic metal content evolve? Where do most of the metals reside in the Universe? What is the role of metals in structure formation and evolution? To reach out to the early Universe ORIGIN will use Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) to study their local environments in their host galaxies. This requires the capability to slew the satellite in less than a minute to the GRB location. By studying the chemical composition and properties of clusters of galaxies we can extend the range of exploration to lower redshifts ( z ˜0.2). For this task we need a high-resolution spectral imaging instrument with a large field of view. Using the same instrument, we can also study the so far only partially detected baryons in the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM). The less dense part of the WHIM will be studied using absorption lines at low redshift in the spectra for GRBs. The ORIGIN mission includes a Transient Event Detector (coded mask with a sensitivity of 0.4 photon/cm[SUP]2[/SUP]/s in 10 s in the 5-150 keV band) to identify and localize 2000 GRBs over a five year mission, of which ˜65 GRBs have a redshift >7. The Cryogenic Imaging Spectrometer, with a spectral resolution of 2.5 eV, a field of view of 30 arcmin and large effective area below 1 keV has the sensitivity to study clusters up to a significant fraction of the virial radius and to map the denser parts of the WHIM (factor 30 higher than achievable with current instruments). The payload is complemented by a Burst InfraRed Telescope to enable onboard red-shift determination of GRBs (hence securing proper follow up of high-z bursts) and also probes the mildly ionized state of the gas. Fast repointing is achieved by a dedicated Controlled Momentum Gyro and a low background is achieved by the selected low Earth orbit. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh precision astrometry mission for the detection and characterization of nearby habitable planetary systems with the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope (NEAT)
Malbet, Fabien; Léger, Alain; Shao, Michael et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2012), 34(2), 385-413

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within ... [more ▼]

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within their Habitable Zones out to several AUs would be a major milestone in extrasolar planets astrophysics. This fundamental goal can be achieved with a mission concept such as NEAT—the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope. NEAT is designed to carry out space-borne extremely-high-precision astrometric measurements at the 0.05 μas (1 σ) accuracy level, sufficient to detect dynamical effects due to orbiting planets of mass even lower than Earth's around the nearest stars. Such a survey mission would provide the actual planetary masses and the full orbital geometry for all the components of the detected planetary systems down to the Earth-mass limit. The NEAT performance limits can be achieved by carrying out differential astrometry between the targets and a set of suitable reference stars in the field. The NEAT instrument design consists of an off-axis parabola single-mirror telescope (D = 1 m), a detector with a large field of view located 40 m away from the telescope and made of 8 small movable CCDs located around a fixed central CCD, and an interferometric calibration system monitoring dynamical Young's fringes originating from metrology fibers located at the primary mirror. The mission profile is driven by the fact that the two main modules of the payload, the telescope and the focal plane, must be located 40 m away leading to the choice of a formation flying option as the reference mission, and of a deployable boom option as an alternative choice. The proposed mission architecture relies on the use of two satellites, of about 700 kg each, operating at L2 for 5 years, flying in formation and offering a capability of more than 20,000 reconfigurations. The two satellites will be launched in a stacked configuration using a Soyuz ST launch vehicle. The NEAT primary science program will encompass an astrometric survey of our 200 closest F-, G- and K-type stellar neighbors, with an average of 50 visits each distributed over the nominal mission duration. The main survey operation will use approximately 70% of the mission lifetime. The remaining 30% of NEAT observing time might be allocated, for example, to improve the characterization of the architecture of selected planetary systems around nearby targets of specific interest (low-mass stars, young stars, etc.) discovered by Gaia, ground-based high-precision radial-velocity surveys, and other programs. With its exquisite, surgical astrometric precision, NEAT holds the promise to provide the first thorough census for Earth-mass planets around stars in the immediate vicinity of our Sun. [less ▲]

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See detailUranus Pathfinder: exploring the origins and evolution of Ice Giant planets
Arridge, Christopher S.; Agnor, Craig B.; Andre, Nicolas et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2012)

The "Ice Giants" Uranus and Neptune are a different class of planet compared to Jupiter and Saturn. Studying these objects is important for furthering our understanding of the formation and evolution of ... [more ▼]

The "Ice Giants" Uranus and Neptune are a different class of planet compared to Jupiter and Saturn. Studying these objects is important for furthering our understanding of the formation and evolution of the planets, and unravelling the fundamental physical and chemical processes in the Solar System. The importance of filling these gaps in our knowledge of the Solar System is particularly acute when trying to apply our understanding to the numerous planetary systems that have been discovered around other stars. The Uranus Pathfinder (UP) mission thus represents the quintessential aspects of the objectives of the European planetary community as expressed in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025. UP was proposed to the European Space Agency's M3 call for medium-class missions in 2010 and proposed to be the first orbiter of an Ice Giant planet. As the most accessible Ice Giant within the M-class mission envelope Uranus was identified as the mission target. Although not selected for this call the UP mission concept provides a baseline framework for the exploration of Uranus with existing low-cost platforms and underlines the need to develop power sources suitable for the outer Solar System. The UP science case is based around exploring the origins, evolution, and processes at work in Ice Giant planetary systems. Three broad themes were identified: (1) Uranus as an Ice Giant, (2) An Ice Giant planetary system, and (3) An asymmetric magnetosphere. Due to the long interplanetary transfer from Earth to Uranus a significant cruise-phase science theme was also developed. The UP mission concept calls for the use of a Mars Express/Rosetta-type platform to launch on a Soyuz-Fregat in 2021 and entering into an eccentric polar orbit around Uranus in the 2036-2037 timeframe. The science payload has a strong heritage in Europe and beyond and requires no significant technology developments. [less ▲]

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See detailDarwin---an experimental astronomy mission to search for extrasolar planets
Cockell, Charles S; Herbst, Tom; Léger, Alain et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2009), 23

As a response to ESA call for mission concepts for its Cosmic Vision 2015--2025 plan, we propose a mission called Darwin. Its primary goal is the study of terrestrial extrasolar planets and the search for ... [more ▼]

As a response to ESA call for mission concepts for its Cosmic Vision 2015--2025 plan, we propose a mission called Darwin. Its primary goal is the study of terrestrial extrasolar planets and the search for life on them. In this paper, we describe different characteristics of the instrument. [less ▲]

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See detailPEGASE, an infrared interferometer to study stellar environments and low mass companions around nearby stars
Ollivier, M.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Allard, F. et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2009), 23

PEGASE is a mission dedicated to the exploration of the environment (including habitable zone) of young and solar-type stars (particularly those in the DARWIN catalogue) and the observation of low mass ... [more ▼]

PEGASE is a mission dedicated to the exploration of the environment (including habitable zone) of young and solar-type stars (particularly those in the DARWIN catalogue) and the observation of low mass companions around nearby stars. It is a space interferometer project composed of three free flying spacecraft, respectively featuring two 40 cm siderostats and a beam combiner working in the visible and near infrared. It has been proposed to ESA as an answer to the first ``Cosmic Vision'' call for proposals, as an M mission. The concept also enables full-scale demonstration of space nulling interferometry operation for DARWIN. [less ▲]

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See detailThe DynaMICCS perspective. A mission for a complete and continuous view of the Sun dedicated to magnetism, space weather and space climate
Turck-Chièze, S.; Lamy, P.; Carr, C. et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2009), 23

The DynaMICCS mission is designed to probe and understand the dynamics of crucial regions of the Sun that determine solar variability, including the previously unexplored inner core, the radiative ... [more ▼]

The DynaMICCS mission is designed to probe and understand the dynamics of crucial regions of the Sun that determine solar variability, including the previously unexplored inner core, the radiative/convective zone interface layers, the photosphere/chromosphere layers and the low corona. The mission delivers data and knowledge that no other known mission provides for understanding space weather and space climate and for advancing stellar physics (internal dynamics) and fundamental physics (neutrino properties, atomic physics, gravitational moments...). The science objectives are achieved using Doppler and magnetic measurements of the solar surface, helioseismic and coronographic measurements, solar irradiance at different wavelengths and in-situ measurements of plasma/energetic particles/magnetic fields. The DynaMICCS payload uses an original concept studied by Thalès Alenia Space in the framework of the CNES call for formation flying missions: an external occultation of the solar light is obtained by putting an occulter spacecraft 150 m (or more) in front of a second spacecraft. The occulter spacecraft, a LEO platform of the mini sat class, e.g. PROTEUS, type carries the helioseismic and irradiance instruments and the formation flying technologies. The latter spacecraft of the same type carries a visible and infrared coronagraph for a unique observation of the solar corona and instrumentation for the study of the solar wind and imagers. This mission must guarantee long (one 11-year solar cycle) and continuous observations (duty cycle > 94%) of signals that can be very weak (the gravity mode detection supposes the measurement of velocity smaller than 1 mm/s). This assumes no interruption in observation and very stable thermal conditions. The preferred orbit therefore is the L1 orbit, which fits these requirements very well and is also an attractive environment for the spacecraft due to its low radiation and low perturbation (solar pressure) environment. This mission is secured by instrumental R and D activities during the present and coming years. Some prototypes of different instruments are already built (GOLFNG, SDM) and the performances will be checked before launch on the ground or in space through planned missions of CNES and PROBA ESA missions (PICARD, LYRA, maybe ASPIICS). [less ▲]

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