Reference : Nulling Interferometry with IRSI-Darwin: Detection and Characterization of Earth-like...
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Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences : Space science, astronomy & astrophysics
Nulling Interferometry with IRSI-Darwin: Detection and Characterization of Earth-like Exoplanets
Absil, Olivier mailto [Université de Liège - ULg > Département d'astrophys., géophysique et océanographie (AGO) > Astroph. extragalactique et observations spatiales (AEOS) >]
36th Liège International Astrophysical Colloquium - From optical to millimetric interferometry: scientific and technological challenges
2/07/2001 - 5/07/2001
Université de Liège
[en] The search for exoplanets has gained much interest since the first discovery of a planet orbiting the star 51 Peg by Mayor and Queloz in 1995. Current techniques for exoplanet detection, such as radial velocity measurements, are well suited to detect Jupiter-sized planets, but do not have enough sensitivity to discover planets similar to our Earth. The IRSI-Darwin space mission is aimed at filling this gap, by means of nulling interferometry. This special kind of interferometry is intended to suppress all the light coming from a blinding star by means of destructive interference,
in order to reveal the star’s potential planetary companions. Once the starlight has been properly cancelled, the thermal emission from zodiacal and exo-zodiacal dust clouds becomes the main obstacle to planet detection. Internal modulation is a recent technique devised to suppress such spurious signals. It relies on rapid modulation between the outputs of two nulling interferometers sharing the same telescopes. In the present work, a comprehensive investigation of possible configurations of a telescope array with internal modulation has been undertaken, leading to a number of new configurations. As compared to the current Darwin configuration, the sensitivity
of the interferometer to the planetary signal has been improved by a factor of two, resulting in a fourfold speedup in the detection and characterization of exoplanets. The possibility of designing a nulling interferometer on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer as a technological prerequisite to Darwin is also considered. Signal-to noise calculations show that this instrument could be used to characterize exo-zodiacal clouds down to the 10-zodi level.

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