Space astronomy missions to detect ingredients for life and exoplanets in the universe: status of current and future approved missions and new proposals
09/11 – Monday
15:00 - 15:30 Water and ice in the universe: from clouds to planets (Ewine van Dishoeck)
15:30 - 16:00 Radioactive isotopes from nucleosynthesis as water‐controlling heat sources (Roland Diehl)
16:00 - 16:20 Infrared spectroscopy- a method for remote sensing of water and other biosignature gases on earth-like planets (Shivom Gupta)
17:30 - 18:00 Water Contents on Rocky Planets in the Habitable Zones of M dwarfs and Biosignature Detection (Feng Tian)
18:00 - 18:20 Starshade Missions and the Search for Life (Webster Cash)
Ground testing of starshades has confirmed that they they achieve ultra high contrast at low angles in a robust manner. The US community is now moving into a demonstration phase for starshades. A program of ground and atmospheric based demos of small starshades to achieve contrast of better than 10^10 at inner working angles pushing in toward one arcsecond will be described. A low cost orbital mission that could be implemented in the next few years will described as well, reaching in to a quarter of an arcsecond. These efforts will allow a flagship-scale starshade to move forward early in the next decade.
Starshades, with their high efficiency and excellent contrast, will allow direct imaging of planetary systems, revealing major planets plus debris disks down to the level of our zodiacal light. Placing a spectrograph entrance slit over the image of an exoplanet will then enable high quality spectroscopy. The low cost orbital mission should be able to perform the first searches for biomarkers on Earth-like planets in nearby planetary systems like Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani.
By detecting exozodiacal light signals in a statistical sample of nearby stars, the orbital demo mission would be able to establish the net background against which exoplanetary spectra must be taken. This in turn would allow the requirement on the angular resolution and hence aperture of a future Lifefinder mission to be set.