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Session 64 - Telescopes for the Next Millennium.
Oral session, Thursday, January 08

[64.04] Bringing Planet Finder Closer: 1AU missions for Terrestrial Planet Finder, precursor and follow-on

N. J. Woolf (Steward Observatory)

A mission to search for Earth-like planets and obtain their spectra was set at 5AU because the zodiacal dust emission at 1AU would make larger mirrors necessary. When the concept was developed in 1995, the Space Telescope with a 2.4m mirror cost $2 billion. To ask for even larger mirrors on a mission seemed unrealistic. Now, Next Generation Space Telescope with a 6-8m glass membrane primary from the Mirror Lab seems achievable within budget, and a 1 AU Terrestrial Planet Finder mission with only half as much glass could be made at no greater cost. The advantages of a 1 AU mission are further IR detector development would no longer be needed; (2) cryogens in dewars would last long enough; (3) for 1AU/5AU systems matched in performance for 15pc planets, the 1AU system would allow higher spectral resolution for closer planetary systems, possibly permitting detection of methane; (4) the signal /noise for a 1AU system will deteriorate less when a planetary system with strong exo-zodiacal emission is encountered; (5) neither RTGs nor large solar cell arrays are needed; (6) mass is less constrained. A precursor mission to confirm TPF techniques at lower cost, and study giant planets at 5\mu could also operate at 1AU. A follow on mission to obtain high resolution spectra of exo-planetary atmospheres would not benefit appreciably from 5AU operation. A 1AU mission would be fine for it.

Program listing for Thursday