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Direct Imaging of Exoplanets - Livestream

The exoplanets field has been revolutionizing astronomy over the past 20+ years and shows no signs of stopping. The next big wave of exoplanet science may come from direct imaging of exoplanets. Several non-habitable exoplanets have already been imaged from the ground and NASA’s next two flagship missions (Roman Space Telescope and the tentatively called “LuvEx” mission) will directly image many more, as well as take their spectra.

One of the “holy grail” goals of the field is the detection and characterization of “Earth 2.0”, i.e. a rocky planet beyond the Solar System with an atmosphere capable of supporting life, and perhaps showing signs of life. The driving goal of the LuvEx mission mentioned above is to detect and characterize 25 such planets. While this mission is being developed (launch is scheduled for the first half of 2040s), several other instruments and projects will be bringing us closer to the goal of directly imaging Earth 2.0. This includes the upcoming Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) on the ground, which are expected to directly image nearby potentially habitable planet late this decade in thermal infrared light, and the Roman Space Telescope, which will directly image large planets. In addition, the Roman Space Telescope will carry an experimental technology we developed called “Multi-Star Wavefront Control” (MSWC) to directly image planets in binary star systems, such as Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to the Sun. The Alpha Centauri system is so unusually close to the Sun that Roman may be sensitive to large potentially habitable planets around one of the Sun-like stars in that system (if such planets exist there).

The NASA Exoplanet Technologies lab is among several groups advancing the technology to make this exciting science possible. In particular, we have developed the MSWC method mentioned above to directly image planets in binary star systems, and several other methods to advance the direct imaging capabilities of future direct imaging missions. I will describe the current challenges and opportunities in this exciting field, as well as the work we are doing to enable an exciting future of discovery and finding life beyond the Solar System.

Speaker: Ruslan Belikov, NASA Ames

Watch the lecture here.

Saturday, 05/21/22


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East Bay Astronomical Society

, CA