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We propose to use 6.5 m ground based telescopes to search by direct imaging for the larger planets of nearby stars. To resolve exoplanets close to a star some 109 times brighter, adaptive optics will be used to recover the clean, sharp, diffraction-limited images made possible by large aperture. This will allow a survey of all the ~30 single stars closer than 10 parsec and with mass ò 0.8 solar masses. Direct imaging holds the promise of quick and unambiguous detection once the instrument is operational, and complements current astrometric and spectroscopic methods for reaction motion.
Atmospheric wavefront distortion will be sensed by interferometric measurementof the bright star flux, and will be corrected by an adaptive mirror with ten times as many actuators as are currently used. In the first phase of work, the full engineering concept will be prototyped at relatively small aperture size, and tested alongside existing advanced systems at the Starfire Optical Range. The successful prototype will already realize correction with very high Strehl ratio, and be used to make unique scientific measurements of close binaries. In the second phase instrumentation for large aperture will be built and tested at the MMT, by then converted to a 6.5 m telescope.
The third, observational phase will be conducted first for a year at the MMT, followed by a year at its twin in Chile, the 6.5 m Magellan telescope. In this phase all the candidates in both hemispheres will be surveyed.
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