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3 March 2003 UMBRAS: a matched occulter and telescope for imaging extrasolar planets
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We describe a 1-meter space telescope plus free-flying occulter craft mission that would provide direct imaging and spectroscopic observations of Jovian and Uranus-sized planets about nearby stars not detectable by Doppler techniques. The Doppler technique is most sensitive for the detection of massive, close-in extrasolar planets while the use of a free-flying occulter would make it possible to image and study stellar systems with planets comparable to our own Solar System. Such a mission with a larger telescope has the potential to detect earth-like planets. Previous studies of free-flying occulters reported advantages in having the occulting spot outside the telescope compared to a classical coronagraph onboard a space telescope. Using an external occulter means light scatter within the telescope is reduced due to fewer internal obstructions and less light entering the telescope and the polishing tolerances of the primary mirror and the supporting optics can be less stringent, thereby providing higher contrast and fainter detection limits. In this concept, the occulting spot is positioned over the star by translating the occulter craft, at distances of 1,000 to 15,000 kms from the telescope, on the sky instead of by moving the telescope. Any source within the telescope field-of-view can be occulted without moving the telescope. In this paper, we present our current concept for a 1-m space telescope matched to a free-flying occulter, the Umbral Missions Blocking Radiating Astronomical Sources (UMBRAS) space mission. An UMBRAS space mission consists of a Solar Powered Ion Driven Eclipsing Rover (SPIDER) occulter craft and a matched (apodized) telescope. The occulter spacecraft would be semi-autonomous, with its own propulsion systems, internal power (solar cells), communications, and navigation capability. Spacecraft rendezvous and formation flying would be achieved with the aid of telescope imaging, RF or laser ranging, celestial navigation inputs, and formation control algorithms.
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