Space Interferometry Mission

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Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 20th October 2010, 2:06 pm

Bad news.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1711/1/

SIM project closing down, personell being reassigned.

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Lazarus on 20th October 2010, 4:54 pm

Ouch.

Certainly the recent NASA Surveys have shown a worrying tendency to favour dark energy research. IIRC both the major space-based and ground-based projects are primarily focussed on finding dark energy.

I'm not sure there is much hope for a similar mission from Europe either.
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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Borislav on 23rd October 2010, 2:33 am

Perhaps now the focus shifts from astrometry to photographic projects.

First, construct 30-40 meter ground-based telescopes. They are already able to detect Earth-mass planets around nearby stars.
http://solar-flux.forumandco.com/detection-methods-and-projects-f4/epics-exoplanet-imaging-camera-and-spectrograph-for-the-e-elt-t668.htm

Secondly the next big space telescope NASA (after JWST) will be optical. Probably 8-meter (as project Ares-V close).
http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.3841


Therefore, it even allows to save money - not spend it on astrometry, and immediately on photographic projects (SIM project will cost about the same with the E-ELT telescope). Although of course the people involved in the project SIM'm it's a pity, it will be difficult to find new jobs after the closure of astrometric project.

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Philip Horzempa on 29th October 2010, 10:56 pm

My article on SIM makes it starkly clear that after the Kepler mission is complete, it is pretty much over for NASA's space-based ExoPlanet Exploration Program. Do not be fooled, do not be mistaken - it is over!
For those of you who dream of other Earths, Wake Up. This Flash from NASA - your dreams are hereby canceled.
I want to be blunt because NASA is doing this all in Stealth mode. Have you seen or heard a press release from NASA regarding the cancellation of SIM? I think that NASA knows it would be getting a lot of pointed questions from the American public and from Congress if they announced this termination. I expect that NASA will eventually say something about this, but perhaps in a whisper on a Friday evening on a 3-day weekend. That is the tactic that they used in 2004 when announcing the cancellation of the last servicing mission to Hubble.
There is a bone (Microlensing on WFIRST) that NASA is tossing to our community, but it is only that, a bone. ML will give better statistics than Kepler, but statistics are not what the public expects from NASA when it comes to the discovery and characterization of New Earths.
If you look at the Comments section of my article, then you will see that NASA has already begun to turn off the SIM project. When that is completed in a couple of months, it will be a LONG time before we see any effort by NASA to find NEARBY Earths, let alone study then with follow-up spectroscopic and imaging missions.
It would be one thing if NASA were planning to replace SIM with a better ExoPlanet mission, or even an equivalent one, such as an 8-meter space telescope. However, there is nothing like that planned in the next 10 years.
In addition, what other proposals lack is reality. They are all paper studies at this time. SIM is real. SIM has completed Phases A and B and has built prototype hardware.
What to do then? Contact your Congressman and Senators. Spread the news throughout the Exoplanet community, however you can, that NASA is walking away from this historic search for nearby Earths orbiting in the Habitable Zone of neighboring stars. Please read my article which goes into more detail on this issue. This is important and unfortunate for us. With SIM we would be on the threshhold of an historic discovery, as momentous as the discovery of Columbus of the New World. Why is NASA and Astro 2010 reluctant to pursue this with gusto? I don't know. There are many possibilities. However, the result is a delay of 10 or 20 years in our search for truly New Worlds.
Phil Horzempa


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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 29th October 2010, 11:37 pm

Philip Horzempa wrote:My article on SIM makes it starkly clear that after the Kepler mission is complete, it is pretty much over for NASA's space-based ExoPlanet Exploration Program. Do not be fooled, do not be mistaken - it is over!
493 exoplanets have been discovered to date. 27 of those have been discovered from space-based observatories, and of those, three were done by a space-based observatory not really designed to do exoplanet science. While I agree that it looks bleak for NASA's space-based exoplanet programme, I don't see why this is such a show stopper.

Philip Horzempa wrote:For those of you who dream of other Earths, Wake Up. This Flash from NASA - your dreams are hereby canceled.
Philip Horzempa wrote:However, the result is a delay of 10 or 20 years in our search for truly New Worlds.
NASA space-based missions are not the only things doing extrasolar planet science. Ground based discoveries have made considerable progress in the past decade and will continue to do so. 94.5% of all known extrasolar planets were discovered from ground-based programmes. My news flash to you - Chill out.

Philip Horzempa wrote:Have you seen or heard a press release from NASA regarding the cancellation of SIM?
Anyone following the decadal survey could have pretty much figured it out. Have you read it? Have you seen their statements on SIM?

The loss of SIM is sad, yes, but it's not the end of extrasolar planet science.

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Philip Horzempa on 30th October 2010, 12:57 am

I must apologize for being a bit sloppy in my earlier post concerning SIM. I was not consistent in my description of what is being lost with the end of SIM. I will try to be more careful this time.
While it is true that many exoplanets have been discovered to date, what are still missing are Earth mass planets. For those of us in the exoplanet community those are the Holy Grail. More specifically, Earth-mass planets orbiting Nearby Solar-type stars at about 1 A.U.
Those planets will be discovered by SIM. No other project, space or Earth-based will be capable of that feat.
By Nearby, I mean within 10 to 30 Light-Years. In contrast, Kepler will find Earths orbiting stars that are 2,000 LY away. Microlensing detects planets that are about 20,000 LY away. The importance of SIM is that it will discover and locate Earth-mass planets that are close enough to allow future missions to characterize their surfaces, atmospheres and oceans. The planets discovered by Kepler and Microlensing are much, much too far away for such follow-up studies.
Some Ground-based projects will be able to detect Super-Earths, with masses of 3 to 10 Earth Masses. I find those objects to be of interest. However, they are not Earth clones of 1 Earth mass. SIM will be able to get down to 1 Earth Mass. In fact, SIM will be able to get down to 0.2 Earth Mass, i.e., Mars size!
So when I referred to the discovery of truly New Worlds, I should have specified that that meant Earth clones orbiting their parent FGK parent stars at about 1 AU. And I should have specified that those Earth Mass New Worlds will be in our immediate stellar neighborhood.
Proximity is crucial to SIM's importance. At distances of 10 or 20 or 30 Light Years, these New Earths are bright enough for future missions to image them, to gather relatively detailed spectra, and even to obtain crude maps. For example, any future TPF will be able to detect the spectral sign of chlorophyll of Earth Twins that are located at that distance. For the first time, we will be able to conduct the very first stages of comparative planetology of small terrestrial worlds on an interstellar stage!
For more details on a spectacular mission, read "Taking the Measure of the Universe" at this link -
http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/40906/1/07-4071.pdf

I thank Sirius_Alpha for the constructive criticism.







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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 30th October 2010, 1:47 am

I'm afraid your link at the bottom seems to have been broken.

The recently released ESA Exoplanet Roadmap Report (pdf 2.3 Mb) describes the challenges facing exoplanet science over the coming decade and makes recommendations. While they note the loss of SIM, it does make it clear that it is one in a chorous of instruments aimed at exoplanet science. Among the most exciting are GAIA. While it won't be able to detect Earths, it can achieve a lot of exoplanet science.

Exoplanet science will move at a slower pace without SIM, sure. But I'm not convinced that radial velocity cannot detect habitable, ~ME planets, given improved accuracy and sufficient cadence. Most notably, there is in development a "laser comb"

Searches for extrasolar planets using the periodic Doppler shift of stellar spectral lines have recently achieved a precision of 60 cm s-1, which is sufficient to find a 5-Earth-mass planet in a Mercury-like orbit around a Sun-like star. To find a 1-Earth-mass planet in an Earth-like orbit, a precision of approx 5 cm s-1 is necessary.
This wide-line-spacing comb, or 'astro-comb', is well matched to the resolving power of high-resolution astrophysical spectrographs. The astro-comb should allow a precision as high as 1 cm s-1 in astronomical radial velocity measurements.

One may argue that intrinsic noise of the star would drown out the signal of an Earth-type planet, but this can be circumvented with long, time-averaging exposures. Furthermore, with increasing data points, the smallest-amplitude RV signal detectable will also decrease. Specifically, the smallest RV signal decreases at a rate proportional to the square of the number of observations (quadruple your observations, and you can detect a planet with half the RV signal).

Progress in research and development of the technology continues.
http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0826/


Indeed, the detection of Earth-mass planets in Earth-type orbits from the ground is a very real prospect in the near-future.

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Borislav on 30th October 2010, 2:09 am

Sirius_Alpha wrote:Indeed, the detection of Earth-mass planets in Earth-type orbits from the ground is a very real prospect in the near-future.

Can be compared. To build and launch the SIM to 5-7 years. Then another 3-5 years to separate the signals astrometric planet after analysis of data collected.

In the case of ground-based photographic projects need only a few months to detect the orbital motion. It is therefore likely now E-ELT-EPIC will quickly discover analogues of the Earth around nearby stars than the SIM (even if it does not close).

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Lazarus on 30th October 2010, 5:59 am

I guess this means the habitable planets that are likely to be best characterised are going to be those around M dwarfs, probably detected by transit surveys like MEarth. Losing SIM is definitely disappointing, looks like the JWST ate all the money (rather like MSL ate all the solar system exploration budget).
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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Roland Borrey on 30th October 2010, 1:57 pm

Losing SIM pushes us back 10 years, decent earth planet data is now for the late 20 even the 30. Unless somebody gets lucky with another approach

I do not believe that we can come up with a reliable 1cm/s RV measurement around a sun like star, the cost of the telescope time would be astronomical, we need some other approach. Maybe optical with that giant telescope that the Europeen are building in Chili

I am surprised that the Chinese have not announced something in this important field, the first to find something could name them, this would be a long term propaganda coup.
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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Philip Horzempa on 1st November 2010, 11:56 pm

A few more thoughts about SIM. First, I should have mentioned in the article that $600 million has been invested in SIM to date. That has allowed a detailed spacecraft design, engineering risk reduction, and the building of prototype hardware. This investment means that SIM is as ready to proceed to construction as any space project can be. I would hate for NASA to walk away after expending that much blood, sweat and tears.
Second, I imagine that many readers of this forum have Astronomy in their blood. I want to point out that if one ignores the hunt for exoplanets, then the rest of the science data that SIM will provide will be stunning. The astrometric precision of SIM's interferometer will allow the positions and motions of all types of objects to be studied. With accuracy of less than 1 microarcsecond, SIM should revolutionize many fields of astronomy. Those types of astronomical insights are one reason that I am so passionate about SIM. Every time astronomers have built better instruments they have seen further into the workings of the Universe.
Just in case the link is still broken in my earlier post, here is the link to the report, "Taking the Measure of the Universe." It is an excellent summary of all of the science of SIM, including exoplanet detection and the other areas of astrophysics that will benefit from SIM's capabilities.

http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/40906/1/07-4071.pdf

Here is a link to a summary, SIM Spotlights, of what is covered in that longer report.

http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/37399/1/03-3589.pdf

One more neat thing about SIM. It will be able to complete the survey of planets in solar systems in which the Kepler space telescope finds Earth-sized planets. Since exact co-planarity is highly unlikely, Kepler will not see the transits of all of the planets in those solar systems. SIM will be able to detect the larger planets in those systems, even at a distance of 2,000 Light-Years, allowing us to deduce how much they resemble our Solar System.



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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 2nd December 2010, 5:02 pm

It is now official

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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

Post by Lazarus on 2nd December 2010, 5:16 pm

Well that sucks. What a waste.
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Re: Space Interferometry Mission

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