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Proceedings Paper

Characterizing the atmosphere of Proxima b with a space-based mid-infrared nulling interferometer
Author(s): D. Defrère; A. Léger; O. Absil; A. Garcia Munoz; J. L. Grenfell; M. Godolt; J. Loicq; J. Kammerer; S. Quanz; H. Rauer; L. Schifano; F. Tian
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Paper Abstract

Proxima b is our nearest potentially rocky exoplanet and represents a formidable opportunity for exoplanet science and possibly astrobiology. With an angular separation of only 35 mas (or 0.05 AU) from its host star, Proxima b is however hardly observable with current imaging telescopes and future space-based coronagraphs. One way to separate the photons of the planet from those of its host star is to use an interferometer that can easily resolve such spatial scales. In addition, its proximity to Earth and its favorable contrast ratio compared with its host M dwarf (approximately 10-5 at 10 microns) makes it an ideal target for a space-based nulling interferometer with relatively small apertures. In this paper, we present the motivation for observing this planet in the mid-infrared (5-20 microns) and the corresponding technological challenges. Then, we describe the concept of a space-based infrared interferometer with relatively small (<1m in diameter) apertures that can measure key details of Proxima b, such as its size, temperature, climate structure, as well as the presence of important atmospheric molecules such as H2O, CO2, O3, and CH4. Finally, we illustrate the concept by showing realistic observations using synthetic spectra of Proxima b computed with coupled climate chemistry models.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 July 2018
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10701, Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging VI, 107011H (24 July 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2312839
Show Author Affiliations
D. Defrère, Univ. de Liège (Belgium)
A. Léger, Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, Univ. de Paris-Sud (France)
O. Absil, Univ. de Liège (Belgium)
A. Garcia Munoz, Technische Univ. Berlin (Germany)
J. L. Grenfell, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (Germany)
M. Godolt, Technische Univ. Berlin (Germany)
J. Loicq, Univ. de Liège (Belgium)
J. Kammerer, The Australian National Univ. (Australia)
S. Quanz, ETH Zürich (Switzerland)
H. Rauer, Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, Univ. de Paris-Sud (France)
L. Schifano, Univ. de Liège (Belgium)
F. Tian, Tsinghua Univ. (China)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10701:
Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging VI
Michelle J. Creech-Eakman; Peter G. Tuthill; Antoine Mérand, Editor(s)

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