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6 December 1999 Imaging planets about other stars with UMBRAS
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Abstract
Direct imaging of terrestrial and Jupiter-size planets about other stars is a major goal of NASA's Origins Program and should be as well for the next generation of spaceborne telescopes. In this paper, we discuss a free-flying occulter to augment the design and imaging capability of space-based telescopes. The Umbral Mission Blocking Radiating Astronomical Sources (UMBRAS) space mission would consist of a Solar- Powered Ion-Driven Eclipsing Rover (SPIDER) and possibly one or two metrology platforms. The UMBRAS spacecraft would be semi-autonomous, with their own propulsion systems, internal power (solar cells), communications, and navigation capability. The spacecraft (the telescope, SPIDER, and any metrology platform) would define a reference frame for aligning the telescope and the SPIDER with the observed target. When stationed at distances of 1,000 to 15,000 km from a telescope, the occulter will enable an 8 m telescope to image very faint sources as close as 0.15' from the target stars. Three of the Doppler-detected planets about nearby stars are at this separation and could be directly imaged with this observing technique. It would be possible to image giant planets as close as 5 Au from parent stars at distances from the Sun as great as 30 pc. With this technique, terrestrial- size planets could be detected around nearby stars within the next decade. We briefly discuss the diffraction effects caused by the occulter and a preliminary proof-of-concept design for the UMBRAS spacecraft. Finally, we suggest types of observations other than planet finding that could be performed with UMBRAS.
© (1999) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
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