Exoplanets & Exomoons

Characterizing Habitable Zones of Exoplanetary Systems with Large Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-IR Space Observatory

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
May 11, 2015
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Characterizing Habitable Zones of Exoplanetary Systems with Large Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-IR Space Observatory
Extrasolar planet with ice caps

Understanding the surface and atmospheric conditions of Earth-size, rocky planets in the habitable zones (HZs) of low-mass stars is currently one of the greatest astronomical endeavors.

Knowledge of the planetary effective surface temperature alone is insufficient to accurately interpret biosignature gases when they are observed in the coming decades. The UV stellar spectrum drives and regulates the upper atmospheric heating and chemistry on Earth-like planets, is critical to the definition and interpretation of biosignature gases, and may even produce false-positives in our search for biologic activity.

This white paper briefly describes the scientific motivation for panchromatic observations of exoplanetary systems as a whole (star and planet), argues that a future NASA UV/Vis/near-IR space observatory is well-suited to carry out this work, and describes technology development goals that can be achieved in the next decade to support the development of a UV/Vis/near-IR flagship mission in the 2020s.

Kevin France, Evgenya Shkolnik, Jeffrey Linsky, Aki Roberge, Thomas Ayres, Travis Barman, Alexander Brown, James Davenport, Jean-Michel Desert, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Brian Fleming, Juan Fontenla, Luca Fossati, Cynthia Froning, Gregg Hallinan, Suzanne Hawley, Renyu Hu, Lisa Kaltenegger, James Kasting, Adam Kowlaski, Parke Loyd, Pablo Mauas, Yamila Miguel, Rachel Osten, Seth Redfield, Sarah Rugheimer, Christian Schneider, Antigona Segura, John Stocke, Feng Tian, Jason Tumlinson, Mariela Vieytes, Lucianne Walkowicz, Brian Wood, Allison Youngblood

(Submitted on 7 May 2015)
Comments: Submitted in response to NASA call for white papers: “Large Astrophysics Missions to Be Studied by NASA Prior to the 2020 Decadal Survey”
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1505.01840 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:1505.01840v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kevin France
[v1] Thu, 7 May 2015 20:00:17 GMT (723kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻