Biosignatures & Paleobiology

Baseline Requirements For Detecting Biosignatures with the HabEx and LUVOIR Mission Concepts

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 14, 2018
Filed under ,
Baseline Requirements For Detecting Biosignatures with the HabEx and LUVOIR Mission Concepts

A milestone in understanding life in the universe is the detection of biosignature gases in the atmospheres of habitable exoplanets.

Future mission concepts under study by the 2020 decadal survey, e.g., HabEx and LUVOIR, have the potential of achieving this goal. We investigate the baseline requirements for detecting four molecular species, H2O, O2, CH4, and CO2, assuming concentrations of these species equal to that of modern Earth. These molecules are highly relevant to habitability and life on Earth and other planets.

Through numerical simulations, we find the minimum requirements of spectral resolution, starlight suppression, and exposure time for detecting biosignature and habitability marker gases. The results are highly dependent on cloud conditions. A low-cloud case is more favorable because of deeper and denser lines whereas a no-cloud case is the pessimistic case for its low albedo. The minimum exposure time for detecting a certain molecule species can vary by a large factor ($\sim$10) between the low-cloud case and the no-cloud case. For all cases, we provide baseline requirements for HabEx and LUVOIR. The impact of exo-zodiacal contamination and thermal background is also discussed and will be included in future studies.

Ji Wang, Dimitri Mawet, Renyu Hu, Garreth Ruane, Jacques-Robert Delorme, Nikita Klimovic
(Submitted on 12 Jun 2018)
Comments: 15 pages, 5 figures, 1 table, accepted by JATIS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1806.04324 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1806.04324v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Ji Wang
[v1] Tue, 12 Jun 2018 04:17:49 GMT (1387kb,D)

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) 🖖🏻