Absil, Olivier[Université de Liège - ULg > Département d'astrophys., géophysique et océanographie (AGO) > Astroph. extragalactique et observations spatiales (AEOS) >]
Hanot, Charles[Université de Liège - ULg > Département d'astrophys., géophysique et océanographie (AGO) > Astroph. extragalactique et observations spatiales (AEOS) >]
Exoplanet Community Report
Lawson, P. R.
Traub, W. A.
Unwin, S. C.
JPL Publication 09‐3
[en] A mid‐infrared mission would enable the detection of biosignatures of Earth‐like exoplanets around more than 150 nearby stars. The mid‐infrared spectral region is attractive for characterizing exoplanets because contrast with the parent star brightness is more favorable than in the visible (10 million vs. 10 billion), and because mid‐infrared light probes deep into a planet’s troposphere. Furthermore, the mid‐infrared offers access to several strong molecular features that are key signs of life, and also provides a measure of the effective temperature and size of a planet. Taken together, an infrared mission plus a visible one would provide a nearly full picture of a planet, including signs of life; with a measure of mass from an astrometric mission, we would have a virtually complete picture. A small infrared mission would have several telescopes that are rigidly connected, with a science return from the detection and characterization of super‐Earth sized to larger planets near the HZ, plus a direct measure of the exozodi brightness in the HZ. In a large infrared mission, with formation‐flying telescopes, planets from an Earth‐twin and upwards
in mass could be detected and characterized, as well as the exozodi. If proceeded by an astrometric mission, the detection phase could be skipped and the mission devoted to characterization, as in the visible case; lacking an astrometric mission, an infrared one could proceed alone, as was discussed for a visible coronograph, and with similar caveats. The technology needed for a large formation‐flying mission is similar to that for a small connected‐element one (e.g., cryogenics and detectors), with the addition of formationflying technology. The technology is now in hand to implement a probe‐scale mission; starlight suppression has even been demonstrated to meet the requirements of a flagship mission. However, additional development of formation‐flying technology is needed, particularly in‐space testing of sensors and guidance, navigation, and control algorithms.