Astronomy & Telescopes

Directly Imaging Rocky Planets from the Ground

By Keith Cowing
May 12, 2019
Filed under
Directly Imaging Rocky Planets from the Ground

Over the past three decades instruments on the ground and in space have discovered thousands of planets outside the solar system.

These observations have given rise to an astonishingly detailed picture of the demographics of short-period planets, but are incomplete at longer periods where both the sensitivity of transit surveys and radial velocity signals plummet.

Even more glaring is that the spectra of planets discovered with these indirect methods are either inaccessible (radial velocity detections) or only available for a small subclass of transiting planets with thick, clear atmospheres. Direct detection can be used to discover and characterize the atmospheres of planets at intermediate and wide separations, including non-transiting exoplanets. Today, a small number of exoplanets have been directly imaged, but they represent only a rare class of young, self-luminous super-Jovian-mass objects orbiting tens to hundreds of AU from their host stars. Atmospheric characterization of planets in the <5 AU regime, where radial velocity (RV) surveys have revealed an abundance of other worlds, is technically feasible with 30-m class apertures in combination with an advanced AO system, coronagraph, and suite of spectrometers and imagers. There is a vast range of unexplored science accessible through astrometry, photometry, and spectroscopy of rocky planets, ice giants, and gas giants. In this whitepaper we will focus on one of the most ambitious science goals — detecting for the first time habitable-zone rocky (<1.6 R_Earth) exoplanets in reflected light around nearby M-dwarfs B. Mazin, É. Artigau, V. Bailey, C. Baranec, C. Beichman, B. Benneke, J. Birkby, T. Brandt, J. Chilcote, M. Chun, L. Close, T. Currie, I. Crossfield, R. Dekany, J.R. Delorme, C. Dong, R. Dong, R. Doyon, C. Dressing, M. Fitzgerald, J. Fortney, R. Frazin, E. Gaidos, O. Guyon, J. Hashimoto, L. Hillenbrand, A. Howard, R. Jensen-Clem, N. Jovanovic, T. Kotani, H. Kawahara, Q. Konopacky, H. Knutson, M. Liu, J. Lu, J. Lozi, B. Macintosh, J. Males, M. Marley, C. Marois, D. Mawet, S. Meeker, M. Millar-Blanchaer, S. Mondal, S. N. Bose, N. Murakami, R. Murray-Clay, N. Narita, T.S. Pyo, L. Roberts, G. Ruane, G. Serabyn, A. Shields, A. Skemer, L. Simard, D. Stelter, M. Tamura, M. Troy, G. Vasisht, J. K. Wallace, J. Wang, J. Wang, S. Wright
(Submitted on 10 May 2019)

Comments: 8 pages, 1 figure, Astro2020 Science White Paper
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:1905.04275 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1905.04275v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Benjamin Mazin
[v1] Fri, 10 May 2019 17:34:11 UTC (1,024 KB)

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) 🖖🏻