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2010ApJ...715..122B - Astrophys. J., 715, 122-131 (2010/May-3)

New completeness methods for estimating exoplanet discoveries by direct detection.


Abstract (from CDS):

We report on new methods for evaluating realistic observing programs that search stars for planets by direct imaging, where observations are selected from an optimized star list and stars can be observed multiple times. We show how these methods bring critical insight into the design of the mission and its instruments. These methods provide an estimate of the outcome of the observing program: the probability distribution of discoveries (detection and/or characterization) and an estimate of the occurrence rate of planets (η). We show that these parameters can be accurately estimated from a single mission simulation, without the need for a complete Monte Carlo mission simulation, and we prove the accuracy of this new approach. Our methods provide tools to define a mission for a particular science goal; for example, a mission can be defined by the expected number of discoveries and its confidence level. We detail how an optimized star list can be built and how successive observations can be selected. Our approach also provides other critical mission attributes, such as the number of stars expected to be searched and the probability of zero discoveries. Because these attributes depend strongly on the mission scale (telescope diameter, observing capabilities and constraints, mission lifetime, etc.), our methods are directly applicable to the design of such future missions and provide guidance to the mission and instrument design based on scientific performance. We illustrate our new methods with practical calculations and exploratory design reference missions for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) operating with a distant starshade to reduce scattered and diffracted starlight on the focal plane. We estimate that five habitable Earth-mass planets would be discovered and characterized with spectroscopy, with a probability of zero discoveries of 0.004, assuming a small fraction of JWST observing time (7%), η = 0.3, and 70 observing visits, limited by starshade fuel.

Abstract Copyright:

Journal keyword(s): methods: statistical - planetary systems - planets and satellites: detection

Simbad objects: 27

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