High-precision astrometry at the sub-μas-level opens up a window to study Earthlike planets in the habitable zones of Sunlike stars and to determine their masses. It thus promises to play an important role in exoplanet science in the future. However, such precision can only be acquired from space and requires dedicated instrumentation for a sufficient astrometric calibration. Here, we present a series of concepts designed for handling this task. STARE is a small satellite concept dedicated to finding planets in the very nearest stellar systems, which offers a low-cost option toward the study of habitable planets. The NEAT concept is a set of two formation-flying satellites with the aim to survey the 200 nearest Sunlike stars for Earths in the habitable zone. Finally, THEIA is a proposal for an ESA M-class mission, with a single-unit telescope designed for both dark matter studies and a survey for habitable Earthlike planets among the 50 nearest stars. The concepts illustrate various possible paths and strategies for achieving exquisite astrometric performance and thereby addressing key scientific questions regarding the distribution of habitability and life in the universe.
Handbook of Exoplanets
- Pub Date:
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 12 pages, 3 figures. Invited review to appear in 'Handbook of Exoplanets', Springer Reference Works, edited by Hans J. Deeg and Juan Antonio Belmonte