Proxima Centauri

Characterizing The Atmosphere Of Proxima b With A Space-based Mid-infrared Nulling Interferometer

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 26, 2018
Filed under
Characterizing The Atmosphere Of Proxima b With A Space-based Mid-infrared Nulling Interferometer
Proxima b

Proxima b is our nearest potentially rocky exoplanet and represents a formidable opportunity for exoplanet science and possibly astrobiology.

With an angular separation of only 35~mas (or 0.05~AU) from its host star, Proxima b is however hardly observable with current imaging telescopes and future space-based coronagraphs. One way to separate the photons of the planet from those of its host star is to use an interferometer that can easily resolve such spatial scales. In addition, its proximity to Earth and its favorable contrast ratio compared with its host M dwarf (approximately 10-5 at 10 microns) makes it an ideal target for a space-based nulling interferometer with relatively small apertures.

In this paper, we present the motivation for observing this planet in the mid-infrared (5-20 microns) and the corresponding technological challenges. Then, we describe the concept of a space-based infrared interferometer with relatively small (<1m in diameter) apertures that can measure key details of Proxima b, such as its size, temperature, climate structure, as well as the presence of important atmospheric molecules such as H2O, CO2, O3, and CH4. Finally, we illustrate the concept by showing realistic observations using synthetic spectra of Proxima b computed with coupled climate chemistry models.

D. Defrère, A. Léger, O. Absil, A. Garcia Munoz, J.L. Grenfell, M. Godolt, J. Loicq, J. Kammerer, S. Quanz, H. Rauer, L. Schifano, F. Tian
(Submitted on 26 Jul 2018)

Comments: 10 pages, 5 figures, SPIE Proceedings
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1807.09996 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1807.09996v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Denis Defrère
[v1] Thu, 26 Jul 2018 07:59:46 GMT (1327kb,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) 🖖🏻