SPICES - Direct imaging and characterisation

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SPICES - Direct imaging and characterisation

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 4th March 2012, 9:17 pm

SPICES: Spectro-Polarimetric Imaging and Characterization of Exoplanetary Systems
http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.0507

SPICES (Spectro-Polarimetric Imaging and Characterization of Exoplanetary Systems) is a five-year M-class mission proposed to ESA Cosmic Vision. Its purpose is to image and characterize long-period extrasolar planets and circumstellar disks in the visible (450 - 900 nm) at a spectral resolution of about 40 using both spectroscopy and polarimetry. By 2020/22, present and near-term instruments will have found several tens of planets that SPICES will be able to observe and study in detail. Equipped with a 1.5 m telescope, SPICES can preferentially access exoplanets located at several AUs (0.5-10 AU) from nearby stars ($<$25 pc) with masses ranging from a few Jupiter masses to Super Earths ($\sim$2 Earth radii, $\sim$10 M$_{\oplus}$) as well as circumstellar disks as faint as a few times the zodiacal light in the Solar System.

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Re: SPICES - Direct imaging and characterisation

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 13th March 2012, 8:53 pm

Atmospheric characterization of cold exoplanets using a 1.5-m coronagraphic space telescope
http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.2826

Context. High-contrast imaging is currently the only available technique for the study of the thermodynamical and compositional properties of exoplanets in long-period orbits. The SPICES project is a coronagraphic space telescope dedicated to the spectro-polarimetric analysis of gaseous and icy giant planets as well as super-Earths at visible wavelengths. So far, studies for high-contrast imaging instruments have mainly focused on technical feasibility because of the challenging planet/star flux ratio of 10-8-10-10 required at short separations (200 mas or so) to image cold exoplanets. However, the analysis of planet atmospheric/surface properties has remained largely unexplored. Aims. The aim of this paper is to determine which planetary properties SPICES or an equivalent direct imaging mission can measure, considering realistic reflected planet spectra and instrument limitation. Methods. We use numerical simulations of the SPICES instrument concept and theoretical planet spectra to carry out this performance study. Results. We find that the characterization of the main planetary properties (identification of molecules, effect of metallicity, presence of clouds and type of surfaces) would require a median signal-to-noise ratio of at least 30. In the case of a solar-type star \leq 10 pc, SPICES will be able to study Jupiters and Neptunes up to ~5 and ~2 AU respectively. It would also analyze cloud and surface coverage of super-Earths of radius 2.5 RE at 1 AU. Finally, we determine the potential targets in terms of planet separation, radius and distance for several stellar types. For a Sun analog, we show that SPICES could characterize Jupiters (M \geq 30 ME) as small as 0.5 Jupiter radii at ~2 AU up to 10 pc, and super-Earths at 1-2 AU for the handful of stars that exist within 4-5 pc. Potentially, SPICES could perform analysis of a hypothetical Earth-size planet around alpha Cen A and B.

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