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Detecting Life-bearing Extra-solar Planets with Space Telescopes

By SpaceRef Editor
October 9, 2007
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Detecting Life-bearing Extra-solar Planets with Space Telescopes

Steven V. W. Beckwith (Submitted on 7 Oct 2007)

Full paper PDF

One of the promising methods to search for life on extra-solar planets (exoplanets) is to detect life’s signatures in their atmospheres. Spectra of exoplanet atmospheres at the modest resolution needed to search for oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and methane will demand large collecting areas and large diameters to capture and isolate the light from planets in the habitable zones around the stars.

For telescopes using coronagraphs to isolate the light from the planet, each doubling of telescope diameter will increase the available sample of stars by an order of magnitude, indicating a high scientific return if the technical difficulties of constructing very large space telescopes can be overcome.

For telescopes detecting atmospheric signatures of transiting planets, the sample size increases only linearly with diameter, and the available samples are probably too small to guarantee detection of life-bearing planets. Using samples of nearby stars suitable for exoplanet searches, this paper shows that the demands of searching for life with either technique will require large telescopes, with diameters of order 10m or larger in space.

Comments: 15 pages, 6 figures, submitted to Ap. J
Subjects: Astrophysics (astro-ph)
CiteĀ as: arXiv:0710.1444v1 [astro-ph]
Submission history
From: Steven V. W. Beckwith [view email]
[v1] Sun, 7 Oct 2007 21:34:58 GMT (122kb,D)

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