Saturday, January 17, 2015

Circumstellar Material Observed Around Directly Imaged Exoplanetary Systems

A Quick Study of Science Return from Direct Imaging Exoplanet Missions: Detection and Characterization of Circumstellar Material with an AFTA or EXO-C/S CGI




The capabilities of a high (~ 10^-9 resel^-1) contrast, narrow-field, coronagraphic instrument (CGI) on a space-based AFTA-C or probe-class EXO-C/S mission, conceived to study the diversity of exoplanets now known to exist into stellar habitable zones, are particularly and importantly germane to symbiotic studies of the systems of circumstellar (CS) material from which planets have emerged and interact with throughout their lifetimes. The small particle populations in "disks" of co-orbiting materials can trace the presence of planets through dynamical interactions that perturb the spatial distribution of the light-scattering debris, detectable at optical wavelengths and resolvable with an AFTA-C or EXO-S/C CGI. Herein we: (1) present the science case to study the formation, evolution, architectures, diversity, and properties of the material in the planet-hosting regions of nearby stars, (2) discuss how a CGI under current conception can uniquely inform and contribute to those investigations, (3) consider the applicability of CGI anticipated performance for CS debris system (CDS) studies, (4) investigate, through AFTA CGI image simulations, the anticipated interpretive fidelity and metrical results from specific, representative, zodiacal debris disk observations, (5) comment on specific observational modes and methods germane to, and augmenting, CDS observations, (6) present, in detail, the case for augmenting the currently conceived CGI two-band Nyquist sampled (or better) imaging capability with a full linear-Stokes imaging polarimeter of great benefit in characterizing the material properties of CS dust (and exoplanet atmospheres, discussed in other studies).

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