26 September 2013 New Worlds Airship
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Proceedings Volume 8864, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VI; 886407 (2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2024450
Event: SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications, 2013, San Diego, California, United States
Abstract
We review the progress on the New Worlds Airship project, which has the eventual goal of suborbitally mapping the Alpha Centauri planetary system into the Habitable Zone. This project consists of a telescope viewing a star that is occulted by a starshade suspended from an airship. The starshade suppresses the starlight such that fainter planetary objects near the star are revealed. A visual sensor is used to determine the position of the starshade and keep the telescope within the starshade’s shadow. In the first attempt to demonstrate starshades through astronomical observations, we have built a precision line of sight position indicator and flew it on a Zeppelin in October (2012). Since the airship provider went out of business we have been redesigning the project to use Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing rockets instead. These Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles will serve as a starshade platform and test bed for further development of the visual sensor. We have completed ground tests of starshades on dry lakebeds and have shown excellent contrast. We are now attempting to use starshades on hilltops to occult stars and perform high contrast imaging of outer planetary systems such as the debris disk around Fomalhaut.
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Anthony Harness, Webster Cash, Ann Shipley, Tiffany Glassman, Steve Warwick, "New Worlds Airship", Proc. SPIE 8864, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VI, 886407 (26 September 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2024450; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2024450
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