28 August 2014 MAPLE: reflected light from exoplanets with a 50-cm diameter stratospheric balloon telescope
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Detecting light reflected from exoplanets by direct imaging is the next major milestone in the search for, and characterization of, an Earth twin. Due to the high-risk and cost associated with satellites and limitations imposed by the atmosphere for ground-based instruments, we propose a bottom-up approach to reach that ultimate goal with an endeavor named MAPLE. MAPLE first project is a stratospheric balloon experiment called MAPLE-50. MAPLE-50 consists of a 50 cm diameter off-axis telescope working in the near-UV. The advantages of the near-UV are a small inner working angle and an improved contrast for blue planets. Along with the sophisticated tracking system to mitigate balloon pointing errors, MAPLE-50 will have a deformable mirror, a vortex coronograph, and a self-coherent camera as a focal plane wavefront-sensor which employs an Electron Multiplying CCD (EMCCD) as the science detector. The EMCCD will allow photon counting at kHz rates, thereby closely tracking telescope and instrument-bench-induced aberrations as they evolve with time. In addition, the EMCCD will acquire the science data with almost no read noise penalty. To mitigate risk and lower costs, MAPLE-50 will at first have a single optical channel with a minimum of moving parts. The goal is to reach a few times 109 contrast in 25 h worth of flying time, allowing direct detection of Jovians around the nearest stars. Once the 50 cm infrastructure has been validated, the telescope diameter will then be increased to a 1.5 m diameter (MAPLE-150) to reach 1010 contrast and have the capability to image another Earth.
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Christian Marois, Christian Marois, Colin Bradley, Colin Bradley, John Pazder, John Pazder, Reston Nash, Reston Nash, Stanimir Metchev, Stanimir Metchev, Frédéric Grandmont, Frédéric Grandmont, Anne-Lise Maire, Anne-Lise Maire, Ruslan Belikov, Ruslan Belikov, Bruce Macintosh, Bruce Macintosh, Thayne Currie, Thayne Currie, Raphaël Galicher, Raphaël Galicher, Franck Marchis, Franck Marchis, Dimitri Mawet, Dimitri Mawet, Eugene Serabyn, Eugene Serabyn, Eric Steinbring, Eric Steinbring, } "MAPLE: reflected light from exoplanets with a 50-cm diameter stratospheric balloon telescope", Proc. SPIE 9143, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave, 91432R (28 August 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2056747; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2056747

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