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J. Schou, R. S. Bogart, R. I. Bush, J. T. Hoeksema, P. H. Scherrer (Stanford), T. M. Brown (HAO/NCAR), D. L. Buzasi (Berkeley), S. D. Horner (Naval Observatory), S. G. Korzennik (CfA)
The Stellar and Planetary Explorer (SPEX) mission will search for terrestrial inner planets around Sun-like (FGK, main sequence) stars using photometric techniques as well as provide very long time series for asteroseismology.
If every Sun-like star had a planetary system similar to ours, the proposed instrumentation would detect at least 100 terrestrial planets similar to the Earth or Venus and be able to provide statistics on their diameters and orbital periods. SPEX will accomplish this by continuously observing a large number of field stars to detect planetary transits. The instrument consists of a fast Schmidt camera with a mosaic of large CCD detectors. SPEX will observe a field near the galactic plane from a geosynchronous orbit for a minimum of 3 years.
The very long asteroseismic time series will allow inferences on the interiors of more than 100 Sun-like stars with a variety of masses and ages. This will allow us to substantially refine stellar model calculations and in particular improve on the age estimates of stars. This in turn is of considerable interest for the understanding of the evolution of our galaxy and the universe as a whole.
SPEX will also provide new data for stellar activity and will be able to detect the reflected light from large inner planets, such as those detected using ground based Doppler velocity searches.