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Proceedings Paper

SIM PlanetQuest science and technology: a status report
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Paper Abstract

Optical interferometry will open new vistas for astronomy over the next decade. The Space Interferometry Mission (SIM-PlanetQuest), operating unfettered by the Earth's atmosphere, will offer unprecedented astrometric precision that promises the discovery of Earth-analog extra-solar planets as well as a wealth of important astrophysics. Results from SIM will permit the determination of stellar masses to accuracies of 2% or better for objects ranging from brown dwarfs through main sequence stars to evolved white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Studies of star clusters will yield age determinations and internal dynamics. Microlensing measurements will present the mass spectrum of the Milky Way internal to the Sun while proper motion surveys will show the Sun's orbital radius and speed. Studies of the Galaxy's halo component and companion dwarf galaxies permit the determination of the Milky Way's mass distribution, including its Dark Matter component and the mass distribution and Dark Matter component of the Local Group. Cosmology benefits from precision (1-2%) determination of distances to Cepheid and RR Lyrae standard candles. The emission mechanism of supermassive black holes will be investigated. Finally, radio and optical celestial reference frames will be tied together by an improvement of two orders of magnitude. Optical interferometers present severe technological challenges. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with the support of Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (LM ATC) and Northrop Grumman Space Technology (NGST), has addressed these challenges with a technology development program that is now complete. The requirements for SIM have been satisfied, based on outside peer review, using a series of laboratory tests and appropriate computer simulations: laser metrology systems perform with 10 picometer precision; mechanical vibrations have been controlled to nanometers, demonstrating orders of magnitude disturbance rejection; and knowledge of component positions throughout the whole test assembly has been demonstrated to the required picometer level. Technology transfer to the SIM flight team is now well along.

Paper Details

Date Published: 19 September 2007
PDF: 17 pages
Proc. SPIE 6693, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets III, 66930D (19 September 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.732728
Show Author Affiliations
Stephen J. Edberg, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Robert A. Laskin, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
James C. Marr, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Stephen C. Unwin, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Michael Shao, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6693:
Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets III
Daniel R. Coulter, Editor(s)

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