AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 130 Extra Solar Planets II
Oral, Thursday, January 8, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, Centennial I/II

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[130.06] The New Worlds Observer: A New Approach to Observing Extrasolar Planets

W. Cash, E. Wilkinson, J. Green (U. of Colorado), J. Kasdin, D. Spergel, E. Turner, R. Vanderbei (Princeton U.), S. Seager (Carnegie Inst. of Washington), A. Stern (Southwest Research Institute), S. Kilston, J. Leiber (Ball Aerospace)

Direct observation of planets around other stars has been hindered primarily by the spatial proximity of their parent stars. Diffraction and scattering swamp the signal from the planet, which is typically billions of times fainter. We present an approach which has the potential to sidestep these problems. The New Worlds Observer was proposed to NASA last summer for a concept study as a Life Finder Mission to perform spectroscopy of terrestrial planets at 10pc. It consists of two spacecraft separated by 180,00km. The first craft, the starshade, features a deployable dark sheet hundreds of meters across and an aperture approximately 10m in diameter, specially shaped to suppress diffraction. At the focal plane of this pinhole camera flies a 10m diameter, one arcsecond quality Cassegrain telescope. If the telescope is placed where the pinhole image of a planet falls, the diffracted light from the star is suppressed, so only planet light enters the telescope. This system will allow sensitive observations anywhere from the far ultraviolet to the near infrared. Accompanying posters at this meeting will present science simulations and more details on the starshade design.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: cash@casa.colorado.edu

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