37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 31 Extrasolar Planets
Poster, Tuesday, September 6, 2005, 6:00-7:15pm, Music Recital Room

[Previous] | [Session 31] | [Next]

[31.11] Understanding Other Worlds: NASA's Missions to Find and Characterize Extrasolar Planetary Systems

S. C. Unwin (JPL/CalTech)

About 150 extrasolar planets, mostly much more massive than the Earth, are now known from ground-based observations. Earth-mass planets are very hard, if not impossible to detect from the ground. The study of planets like our own Earth, orbiting in a ‘habitable zone’ around their parent stars, will require a new generation of space-based instruments.

The Space Interferometry Mission PlanetQuest (SIM PlanetQuest) will discover planets around nearby stars through detection of the stellar reflex motion. Launching in 2011, it will search for terrestrial planets around 250 solar-type stars. A direct measurement of mass, which SIM provides, is critical for determining if a planet can retain an atmosphere, which is essential to determining the habitability of Earth-like planets. SIM will also study the dynamics and stability of multiple-planet systems. The infrared Spitzer Space Telescope is already providing new insight into the process of formation and evolution of planetary systems, and the James Webb Space Telescope will greatly extended these studies and will be able to characterize young giant planets. The Kepler mission, due for launch in 2008, will use transit observations to establish the statistics of planetary systems.

Two Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) missions are planned by NASA for direct detection of planets and spectroscopy of their atmospheres. An optical coronagraph (TPF-C), planned for launch in 2014, will be capable of returning spectra of dozens of Earth-like planets, with the signatures of molecules such as oxygen, water vapor, and ozone. Later in the next decade, a mid-infrared formation-flying interferomer (TPF-I) will directly measure the temperature of a planet’s atmosphere and biomarker molecules such as carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and water vapor. When combined with dynamical data from SIM, comparative planetology will be extended to the planetary systems around other stars in our solar neighborhood.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: stephen.unwin@jpl.nasa.gov

[Previous] | [Session 31] | [Next]

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.