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The Synergy of Direct Imaging and Astrometry for Orbit Determination of exo-Earths

Authors
Type
Preprint
Publication Date
Jun 21, 2010
Submission Date
Mar 24, 2010
Identifiers
arXiv ID: 1003.4702
Source
SETI Institute
License
Yellow
External links

Abstract

The holy grail of exoplanet searches is an exo-Earth, an Earth mass planet in the habitable zone around a nearby star. Mass is the most important parameter of a planet and can only be measured by observing the motion of the star around the planet-star center of mass. A single image of a planet, however, does not provide evidence that the planet is Earth mass or that it is in a habitable zone orbit. The planet's orbit, however, can be measured either by imaging the planet at multiple epochs or by measuring the position of the star at multiple epochs by space-based astrometry. The measurement of an exo-planet's orbit by direct imaging is complicated by a number of factors: (1) the inner working angle (IWA); (2) the apparent brightness of the planet depending on the orbital phase; (3) confusion arising from the presence of multiple planets; and (4) the planet-star contrast. In this paper we address the question: "Can a prior astrometric mission that can identify which stars have Earthlike planets significantly improve the science yield of a mission to image exo-Earths?" We find that the Occulting Ozone Observatory (a small external occulter mission that cannot measure spectra) could confirm the orbits of ~4 to ~5 times as many exo-Earths if an astrometric mission preceded it to identify which stars had such planets. We find that in the case of an internal coronagraph, a survey of the nearest ~60 stars could be done with a telescope of half the size if an astrometric mission had first identified the presence of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone and measured their orbital parameters.

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