Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE). III. Spectral resolution, wavelength range, and sensitivity requirements based on atmospheric retrieval analyses of an exoEarth
Abstract
Context. Temperate terrestrial exoplanets are likely to be common objects, but their discovery and characterization is very challenging because of the small intrinsic signal compared to that of their host star. Various concepts for optimized space missions to overcome these challenges are currently being studied. The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE) initiative focuses on the development of a spacebased midinfrared (MIR) nulling interferometer probing the thermal emission of a large sample of exoplanets.
Aims: This study derives the minimum requirements for the signaltonoise ratio (S/N), the spectral resolution (R), and the wavelength coverage for the LIFE mission concept. Using an Earthtwin exoplanet as a reference case, we quantify how well planetary and atmospheric properties can be derived from its MIR thermal emission spectrum as a function of the wavelength range, S/N, and R.
Methods: We combined a cloudfree 1D atmospheric radiative transfer model, a noise model for observations with the LIFE interferometer, and the nested sampling algorithm for Bayesian parameter inference to retrieve planetary and atmospheric properties. We simulated observations of an Earthtwin exoplanet orbiting a G2V star at 10 pc from the Sun with different levels of exozodiacal dust emissions. We investigated a grid of wavelength ranges (320 μm, 418.5 μm, and 617 μm), S/Ns (5, 10, 15, and 20 determined at a wavelength of 11.2 μm), and Rs (20, 35, 50, and 100).
Results: We find that H_{2}O, CO_{2}, and O_{3} are detectable if S/N ≥ 10 (uncertainty ≤ ± 1.0 dex). We find upper limits for N_{2}O (abundance ≲10^{−3}). In conrtrast, CO, N_{2}, and O_{2} are unconstrained. The lower limits for a CH_{4} detection are R = 50 and S/N = 10. Our retrieval framework correctly determines the exoplanet's radius (uncertainty ≤ ± 10%), surface temperature (uncertainty ≤ ± 20 K), and surface pressure (uncertainty ≤ ± 0.5 dex) in all cloudfree retrieval analyses. Based on our current assumptions, the observation time required to reach the specified S/N for an Earthtwin at 10 pc when conservatively assuming a total instrument throughput of 5% amounts to ≈6−7 weeks with four 2m apertures.
Conclusions: We provide first order estimates for the minimum technical requirements for LIFE via the retrieval study of an Earthtwin exoplanet. We conclude that a minimum wavelength coverage of 418.5 μm, an R of 50, and an S/N of at least 10 is required. With the current assumptions, the atmospheric characterization of several Earthlike exoplanets at a distance of 10 pc and within a reasonable amount of observing time will require apertures ≥ 2m.
 Publication:

Astronomy and Astrophysics
 Pub Date:
 August 2022
 DOI:
 10.1051/00046361/202141964
 arXiv:
 arXiv:2112.02054
 Bibcode:
 2022A&A...664A..23K
 Keywords:

 methods: statistical;
 planets and satellites: terrestrial planets;
 planets and satellites: atmospheres;
 Astrophysics  Earth and Planetary Astrophysics;
 Astrophysics  Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
 EPrint:
 Accepted for publication in A&