Imaging low-mass planets within the habitable zones of nearby stars with ground-based mid-infrared imaging
AffiliationSteward Observatory, University of Arizona
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona
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CitationWagner, K., Ertel, S., Stone, J., Leisenring, J., Apai, D., Kasper, M., Absil, O., Close, L., Defrère, D., Guyon, O., & Males, J. (2021). Imaging low-mass planets within the habitable zones of nearby stars with ground-based mid-infrared imaging. Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering.
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AbstractGiant exoplanets on 10-100 au orbits have been directly imaged around young stars. The peak of the thermal emission from these warm young planets is in the near-infrared (a1/41-5 μm), whereas mature, temperate exoplanets (i.e., those within their stars' habitable zones) radiate primarily in the mid-infrared (mid-IR: A1/410 μm). If the background noise in the mid-IR can be mitigated, then exoplanets with low masses-including rocky exoplanets-can potentially be imaged in very deep exposures. Here, we review the recent results of the Breakthrough Watch/New Earths in the Alpha Centauri Region (NEAR) program on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. NEAR pioneered a ground-based mid-IR observing approach designed to push the capabilities for exoplanet imaging with a specific focus on the closest stellar system, Centauri. NEAR combined several new optical technologies-including a mid-IR optimized coronagraph, adaptive optics system, and rapid chopping strategy to mitigate noise from the central star and thermal background within the habitable zone. We focus on the lessons of the VLT/NEAR campaign to improve future instrumentation specifically on strategies to improve noise mitigation through chopping. We also present the design and commissioning of the Large Binocular Telescope's Exploratory Survey for Super-Earths Orbiting Nearby Stars (LESSONS), an experiment in the Northern hemisphere that is building on what was learned from NEAR to further push the sensitivity of mid-IR imaging. Finally, we briefly discuss some of the possibilities that mid-IR imaging will enable for exoplanet science. © COPYRIGHT SPIE. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
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