19 September 2007 Potential of space-based infrared Bracewell interferometers for planet detection
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Abstract
The Darwin and TPF-I space missions will be able to study the atmosphere of distant worlds similar to the Earth. Flying these space-based interferometers will however be an extraordinary technological challenge and a first step could be taken by a smaller mission. Several proposals have already been made in this context, using the simplest nulling scheme composed of two collectors, i.e., the original Bracewell interferometer. Two of these projects, viz. Pegase and the Fourier-Kelvin Space Interferometer, show very good perspectives for the characterisation of hot extra-solar giant planets (i.e., Jupiter-size planets orbiting close to their parent star). In this paper, we build on these concepts and try to optimise a Bracewell interferometer for the detection of Earth-like planets. The major challenge is to efficiently subtract the emission of the exo-zodiacal cloud which cannot be suppressed by classical phase chopping techniques as in the case of multi-telescopes nulling interferometers. We investigate the potential performance of split-pupil configurations with phase chopping and of OPD modulation techniques, which are good candidates for such a mitigation. Finally, we give a general overview of the performance to be expected from space-based Bracewell interferometers for the detection of extra-solar planets. In particular, the prospects for known extra-solar planets are presented.
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D. Defrère, O. Absil, C. Hanot, M. Fridlund, "Potential of space-based infrared Bracewell interferometers for planet detection", Proc. SPIE 6693, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets III, 66931N (19 September 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.758669; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.758669
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