A Response to Elvis' 2015 Critique of the AURA Report "From Cosmic Birth to Living Earths"
Seager et al
To ensure progress in astronomy over the coming decades, the key questions are "what facilities will we build, and when?" Toward this end, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) recently commissioned a study on future space-based options for UV and optical astronomy. The resulting study - "From Cosmic Births to Living Earths" - concluded that a space telescope equipped with a 12-meter class primary mirror would make fundamental advances across virtually all of astrophysics, including finding and characterizing the atmospheres of dozens of Earth-like planets. This ambitious telescope concept is referred to as the High Definition Space Telescope (HDST). In a recent arXiv white paper, Elvis (2015) critiqued a subset of the findings of the AURA study, focusing on the detection and characterization of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone. In this response, we clarify these issues to confirm that HDST would play a transformative role in the study of terrestrial worlds. Its capabilities for studying exoplanets would be truly unique, even in 2035, and would complement HDST's broad and deep range of exciting astrophysics.