Exoplanet Science with Ares-V Enabled Telescopes
Wes Traub (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Direct detection of exoplanets has a huge potential ability to tell us about relatively detailed conditions on those planets, including the search for life on an Earth-like terrestrial one. This potential is limited by a number of instrumental realities, among which the hardest to overcome are the faintness of exoplanets and the background photons from the exozodi dust disk within which the exoplanets are likely to be orbiting.
The Ares V can provide a means to the solution for both of these limiting factors. For any of the presently contemplated versions of the Terrestrial Planet Finder missions, whether internal coronagraph, external coronagraph (occulter), or interferometer with free-flying spacecraft, the main performance limitations are collecting area and angular resolution. These two factors are directly related to the constraints of faintness and exozodi: larger collecting areas increase the signal counts, and large baselines increase the angular resolution hence the separation of planet from background.
In this talk I will focus on the dramatically large scientific improvement expected in the characterization of an exoplanet from the capabilities to be provided by the Ares V launch vehicle.