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9 July 2008 Direct thermal imaging of circumstellar discs and exo-planets
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The phase A study of a mid infrared imager and spectrograph for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), called METIS, was endorsed in May 2008. Two key science drivers of METIS are: a) direct thermal imaging of exo-planets and b) characterization of circumstellar discs from the early proto-planetary to the late debris phase. Observations in the 10μm atmospheric window (N band) require a contrast ratio between stellar light and emitted photons from the exo-planet or the disc of ~ 105. At shorter wavelengths the contrast between star and reflected light from the planet-disc system exceeds ≳ 107 posing technical challenges. By means of end-to-end detailed simulations we demonstrate that the superb spatial resolution of a 42m telescope in combination with stellar light rejection methods such as coronagraphic or differential imaging will allow detections at 10μm for a solar type system down to a star-planet separation of 0.1" and a mass limit for irradiated planets of 1 Jupiter (MJ) mass. In case of self-luminous planets observations are possible further out e.g. at the separation limit of JWST of ~ 0.7", METIS will detect planets ≳5MJ. This allows to derive a census of all such exo-planets by means of thermal imaging in a volume limited sample of up to 6pc. In addition, METIS will provide the possibility to study the chemical composition of atmospheres of exo-planets using spectroscopy at moderate spectral resolution (λ/Δλ ~ 100) for the brightest targets. Based on detailed performance and sensitivity estimates, we demonstrate that a mid-infrared instrument on an ELT is perfectly suited to observe gravitationally created structures such as gaps in proto- and post- planetary discs, in a complementary way to space missions (e.g. JWST, SOFIA) and ALMA which can only probe the cold dust emission further out.
© (2008) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Eric Pantin, Ralf Siebenmorgen, Celine Cavarroc, and Michael F. Sterzik "Direct thermal imaging of circumstellar discs and exo-planets", Proc. SPIE 7014, Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy II, 70142D (9 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.788826;


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