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Proceedings Paper

Architecture design study and technology road map for the Planet Formation Imager (PFI)
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Paper Abstract

The Planet Formation Imager (PFI) Project has formed a Technical Working Group (TWG) to explore possible facility architectures to meet the primary PFI science goal of imaging planet formation in situ in nearby starforming regions. The goals of being sensitive to dust emission on solar system scales and resolving the Hill-sphere around forming giant planets can best be accomplished through sub-milliarcsecond imaging in the thermal infrared. Exploiting the 8-13 micron atmospheric window, a ground-based long-baseline interferometer with approximately 20 apertures including 10km baselines will have the necessary resolution to image structure down 0.1 milliarcseconds (0.014 AU) for T Tauri disks in Taurus. Even with large telescopes, this array will not have the sensitivity to directly track fringes in the mid-infrared for our prime targets and a fringe tracking system will be necessary in the near-infrared. While a heterodyne architecture using modern mid-IR laser comb technology remains a competitive option (especially for the intriguing 24 and 40μm atmospheric windows), the prioritization of 3-5μm observations of CO/H2O vibrotational levels by the PFI-Science Working Group (SWG) pushes the TWG to require vacuum pipe beam transport with potentially cooled optics. We present here a preliminary study of simulated L- and N-band PFI observations of a realistic 4-planet disk simulation, finding 21x2.5m PFI can easily detect the accreting protoplanets in both L and N-band but can see non-accreting planets only in L band. We also find that even an ambitious PFI will lack sufficient surface brightness sensitivity to image details of the fainter emission from dust structures beyond 5 AU, unless directly illuminated or heated by local energy sources. That said, the utility of PFI at N-band is highly dependent on the stage of planet formation in the disk and we require additional systematic studies in conjunction with the PFI-SWG to better understand the science capabilities of PFI, including the potential to resolve protoplanetary disks in emission lines to measure planet masses using position-velocity diagrams. We advocate for a specific technology road map in order to reduce the current cost driver (telescopes) and to validate high accuracy fringe tracking and high dynamic range imaging at L, M band. In conclusion, no technology show-stoppers have been identified for PFI to date, however there is high potential for breakthroughs in medium-aperture (4-m class) telescopes architecture that could reduce the cost of PFI by a factor of 2 or more.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 August 2016
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 9907, Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V, 99071O (4 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2233311
Show Author Affiliations
John D. Monnier, Univ. of Michigan (United States)
Michael J. Ireland, Australian National Univ. (Australia)
Stefan Kraus, Univ. of Exeter (United Kingdom)
Fabien Baron, Georgia State Univ. (United States)
Michelle Creech-Eakman, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (United States)
Ruobing Dong, Univ. of California, Berkeley (United States)
Andrea Isella, Rice Univ. (United States)
Antoine Merand, European Southern Observatory (Chile)
Ernest Michael, Univ. of Chile (Chile)
Stefano Minardi, Univ. of Jena (Germany)
David Mozurkewich, Seabrook Engineering (United States)
Romain Petrov, Univ. of Nice (France)
Stephen Rinehart, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Theo ten Brummelaar, Georgia State Univ. (United States)
Gautam Vasisht, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Ed Wishnow, Univ. of California, Berkeley (United States)
John Young, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Zhaohuan Zhu, Princeton Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9907:
Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V
Fabien Malbet; Michelle J. Creech-Eakman; Peter G. Tuthill, Editor(s)

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