Status Report

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
February 26, 2018
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Slava G. Turyshev, Michael Shao, Leon Alkalai, Nitin Aurora, Darren Garber, Henry Helvajian, Tom Heinsheimer, Siegfried Janson, Jared R. Males, Dmitri Mawet, Roy Nakagawa, Seth Redfield, Janice Shen, Nathan Strange, Mark R. Swain, Viktor T. Toth, Phil A. Willems, John L. West, Stacy Weinstein-Weiss, Hanying Zhou
(Submitted on 23 Feb 2018)

The remarkable optical properties of the solar gravitational lens (SGL) include major brightness amplification (~1e11 at wavelength of 1 um) and extreme angular resolution (~1e-10 arcsec) in a narrow field of view. A mission to the SGL carrying a modest telescope and coronagraph opens up a possibility for direct megapixel imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy of a habitable Earth-like exoplanet at a distance of up to 100 light years. The entire image of such a planet is compressed by the SGL into a region with a diameter of ~1.3 km in the vicinity of the focal line. The telescope, acting as a single pixel detector while traversing this region, can build an image of the exoplanet with kilometer-scale resolution of its surface, enough to see its surface features and signs of habitability. We report here on the results of our initial study of a mission to the deep outer regions of our solar system, with the primary mission objective of conducting direct megapixel high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of a potentially habitable exoplanet by exploiting the remarkable optical properties of the SGL. Our main goal was to investigate what it takes to operate spacecraft at such enormous distances with the needed precision. Specifically, we studied i) how a space mission to the focal region of the SGL may be used to obtain high-resolution direct imaging and spectroscopy of an exoplanet by detecting, tracking, and studying the Einstein ring around the Sun, and ii) how such information could be used to detect signs of life on another planet. Our results indicate that a mission to the SGL with an objective of direct imaging and spectroscopy of a distant exoplanet is challenging, but possible. We composed a list of recommendations on the mission architectures with risk and return tradeoffs and discuss an enabling technology development program.

Comments:    Final Report for the NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I proposal. 44 pages, 27 figures, 2 tables
Subjects:    Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc)
Cite as:    arXiv:1802.08421 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1802.08421v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Slava G. Turyshev
[v1] Fri, 23 Feb 2018 07:46:18 GMT (5487kb)

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