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Proceedings Paper

Terrestrial Planet Finder: science overview
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Paper Abstract

The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) seeks to revolutionize our understanding of humanity's place in the universe - by searching for Earth-like planets using reflected light, or thermal emission in the mid-infrared. Direct detection implies that TPF must separate planet light from glare of the nearby star, a technical challenge which has only in recent years been recognized as surmountable. TPF will obtain a low-resolution spectra of each planet it detects, providing some of its basic physical characteristics and its main atmospheric constituents, thereby allowing us to assess the likelihood that habitable conditions exist there. NASA has decided the scientific importance of this research is so high that TPF will be pursued as two complementary space observatories: a visible-light coronagraph and a mid-infrared formation-flying interferometer. The combination of spectra from both wavebands is much more valuable than either taken separately, and it will allow a much fuller understanding of the wide diversity of planetary atmospheres that may be expected to exist. Measurements across a broad wavelength range will yield not only physical properties such as size and albedo, but will also serve as the foundations of a reliable and robust assessment of habitability and the presence of life.

Paper Details

Date Published: 12 October 2004
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 5487, Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Space Telescopes, (12 October 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.550949
Show Author Affiliations
Stephen C. Unwin, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Charles A. Beichman, Michelson Science Ctr./California Institute of Technology (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5487:
Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Space Telescopes
John C. Mather, Editor(s)

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