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imran
To me this is one of the most exciting missions to be launched in the next decade. In April 2004, the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) got the go ahead from NASA as a set of two complementary observatories: a visible-light coronagraph (to launch around 2014) and a mid-infrared formation-flying interferometer (to launch before 2020).

Here's the official web site:
http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/tpf_index.html
Marz
QUOTE (imran @ Sep 24 2005, 10:17 AM)
To me this is one of the most exciting missions to be launched in the next decade.  In April 2004, the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) got the go ahead from NASA as a set of two complementary observatories: a visible-light coronagraph (to launch around 2014) and a mid-infrared formation-flying interferometer (to launch before 2020).

Here's the official web site:
http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/tpf_index.html
*


I agree completely. Right now, our detection of planets is skewed towards finding "freaks". Not only will this help confirm what a "normal" solar system looks like, but hopefully find some very earth-like planets in a nice orbit.
Myran
QUOTE
Marz said: Right now, our detection of planets is skewed towards finding "freaks".


Its true that a 'Hot Jupiter' close to its star could be more easy to detect due to the gravitational influence it have on the star.

But more distant worlds can and have been detected, the technology used was in fact made to find large gas giants in orbits many Au (astronomical units) from their parent star, the discovery of these 'freaks' came as a surprise to those all involved in this research.

The only planets that not orbit extremely close and have very little orbital eccentricity are the first confirmed extrasolar planets discovered by Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan and those were a big surprise too.

As for Terrestrial Planet Finder it certainly are one interesting proposal, SIM PlanetQuest are a precursor mission closer in time:

http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/SIM/sim_index.html
Richard Trigaux
The reason why only freaks were found is that the method still lacks sensitivity. It detects an effect on the star which is higher with heavier planets, and higher with a close planet too. This is the reason why the first detections are about very massive planets (20 times Jupiter in far orbit) of smaller planet very close to the star ("hot jupiters" 1-2 Jupiter mass).

But this is not representative of the average solar system, in very much the same way you cannot do a Herzprung-Russel diagram with the stars which are visible with the naked eye: most are "freak" stars in the process of dying.


We even not know why we found so many excentric orbits, if this is not simply a defect of the method, which would indicate an excentric planet when there is not.

All this is beacause we do not know exactly how a solar system forms from an accretion disk. The most common theories about this, is that ringlets form in the accretion disk, from gravitationnal resonance, leading to smaller clouds which can in turn condense into planets. This process creates circular orbits more or less regularly spaced (Titus Bode law) and explains well our solar system. But is this process the only one possible? Is the accretion disk homogenous, or has it some processes of its own? To explain planets on very eccentric orbits, or other oddities, special processes were evoked, such as planets migrating on other orbits, or collisions. But this does not hold really yet.

So this is the reason why it is important to have a capability to find all the planets of a large group of stars. Regular planets, not just freaks or exceptions. And also what roles play lumps into the original nebula, double stars, age of the star, size of the star, metallicity of the star, rotation rate of the star, etc. Only this would allow us to really understand how planet systems form.

And will provide us at last a close estimate of one of the main astrophysical parametres of the Drake equation: the proportions of stars having Earth-like planets in their ecosphere, and thus potentially able to shelter life.
JRehling
QUOTE (Richard Trigaux @ Sep 25 2005, 03:33 AM)
The reason why only freaks were found is that the method still lacks sensitivity. It detects an effect on the star which is higher with heavier planets, and higher with a close planet too. This is the reason why the first detections are about very massive planets (20 times Jupiter in far orbit) of smaller planet very close to the star ("hot jupiters" 1-2 Jupiter mass).

[...]

So this is the reason why it is important to have a capability to find all the planets of a large group of stars. [...]

And will provide us at last a close estimate of one of the main astrophysical parametres of the Drake equation [...]
*


Richard, I think you're absolutely right, top to bottom on this, and very well put.

I have wondered if an important "decision" point in the evolution of a planetary system isn't the eccentricity of its largest planet (in those systems, like ours, where one planet is considerably more massive than the others). Because the dynamics of that planet's orbit is going to be a very large factor in the orbits of the other planets. So we may learn a lot with methods that merely find the "Jupiters" (in orbits 3-20 AU out, whether they are relatively circular or not). But while that would be more informative than the "freak-biased" methods we now have, of course the best thing would be a true unbiased sample of worlds.
Richard Trigaux
Thanks for your approbation, JRehling.

I am much bothered by the very eccentric orbits found, as they go straight against the standard model of accretion disk. In an accretion disk, we can expect that, due to friction, any particule in an eccentric or inclinated orbit will quickly join a circular orbit in grossly the plane of the ring. This does not allow for very eccentric or very inclinated bodies. If such bodies are real, they require special processes to form, or to go on the orbits they are today.

But I join your opinion about, once a heavy body is formed, it forces the formation of the others on resonant orbits, leading to a system which obeys the Titus Bode law. (regularly spaced circular and coplanar orbits).

But with my opinion it is not so simple, and there are very likely different scenarios for the formation of a system, depending on the sequence of events.

The simplest scenario is when an homogenous primordial cloud falls quickly to form an homogenous accretion ring. Some million years later, the primordial cloud is cleared, and this ring starts to form ringlets on resonant orbits, to give a regular planet system like ours.

By the way a perfect accretion cloud would never form planets, as there is no way to decide where will appear the first clump of matter or heavier ringlet. Happily such a ring cannot be perfectly homogenous, and somewhere an heavier clump will sooner or later start to drive the other parts of the ring on and off resonant orbits. This is basically a problem where a tiny disturbance in the beginning will cause drastic differences in the future evolution. In simulations, we are even compelled to artificially introduce such disturbances, otherwise we could obtain a perfect simulation of a water pan on the fire, but which would never have convection movements.

In our solar system, things may have happened this way, except that, obviously, the ring was not homogenous: many matter accumulated at the distance of Jupiter, depleting the level of Mars and Asteroids. Why it was such? There can be several reasons:
-this structure appeared at the time the matter was still falling on the ring, producing an accumulation at a random distance from the Sun;
-A process into the ring, for instance fast spiraling inwards due to a larger accumulation of matter somewhere (similar to the chained collapses of the floors in the World Trade Center). This process could form the "hot Jupiters" fast enough to protect them from fractionned distillation. In our system, a first fall would have depleted Mars and asteroids orbits, and a second was still falling when it formed Jupiter, stopping the fall.
-A process of fractionated distillation due to the heat of the Sun. In this case we could find a statistical corellation between the distance of Jupiter-like planets and the size of the star. From this the interest to have a statistics of many solar systems, which could give us clues about their formation, in the same way the Herzprung Russel statistics of stars enlightened us about their evolution.



But it is clear that besides this "standard" process, some anomalous process could play in various ways:
- the fall of matter from the primordial cloud is not finished when the formation of the planets begins, and this could mask the effect of fractionned distillation.
- heavy clumps of matter could exist into the primordial cloud, before falling on the disk. Eventually these clumps would already contain a planet or brown dwarf. When they fall into the accretion disk, the later is too light weight to efficiently circularise their orbit. Such clumps could then quickly form large planets of their own, eventually in eccentric/inclinated orbits. I think we can explain most of the "freaks" that way. And they left very few place for other stable orbits.
- Planets would migrate from constant accretion of matter with a different momentum, from nearby orbits. This was proposed to explain the "hot Jupiters" in a way which avoids them to undergo fractionned distillation. But seemingly this did not happened in our solar system, as it would require a complex and corellated set of migrations to explain the Titus Bode law.
-Planets on close orbits would interact at the time of a close encounter, to give very eccentric orbits. But if this happened somewhere, we could see the two orbits having a common point, like the Neptune-Pluton system.
ljk4-1
Paper: astro-ph/0601028

Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 16:17:47 GMT (84kb)

Title: Linear and Bayesian Planet Detection Algorithms for the Terrestrial
Planet Finder

Authors: N. Jeremy Kasdin, Isabelle Braems
\\
Current plans call for the first Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, TPF-C, to
be a monolithic space telescope with a coronagraph for achieving high contrast.
The coronagraph removes the diffracted starlight allowing the nearby planet to
be detected. In this paper, we present a model of the planet measurement and
noise statistics. We utilize this model to develop two planet detection
algorithms, one based on matched filtering of the PSF and one using Bayesian
techniques. These models are used to formulate integration time estimates for a
planet detection with desired small probabilities of false alarms and missed
detections.

\\ ( http://arXiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0601028 , 84kb)
ljk4-1
Paper: astro-ph/0601469

Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 02:37:42 GMT (462kb)

Title: Comparative Planetology and the Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

Authors: Charles A. Beichman, Malcolm Fridlund, Wesley A. Traub, Karl R.
Stapelfeldt, Andreas Quirrenbach, Sara Seager

Comments: To Appear in Protosars and Planets V
\\
The study of planets beyond the solar system and the search for other
habitable planets and life is just beginning. Ground-based (radial velocity and
transits) and space-based surveys (transits and astrometry) will identify
planets spanning a wide range of size and orbital location, from Earth-sized
objects within 1 AU to giant planets beyond 5 AU, orbiting stars as near as a
few parsec and as far as a kiloparsec. After this initial reconnaissance, the
next generation of space observatories will directly detect photons from
planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. The synergistic combination of
measurements of mass from astrometry and radial velocity, of radius and
composition from transits, and the wealth of information from the direct
detection of visible and mid-IR photons will create a rich field of comparative
planetology. Information on proto-planetary and debris disks will complete our
understanding of the evolution of habitable environments from the earliest
stages of planet-formation through to the transport into the inner solar system
of the volatiles necessary for life.

The suite of missions necessary to carry out the search for nearby, habitable
planets and life requires a ``Great Observatories'' program for planet finding
(SIM PlanetQuest, Terrestrial Planet Finder-Coronagraph, and Terrestrial Planet
Finder-Interferometer/Darwin), analogous to the highly successful ``Great
Observatories Program'' for astrophysics. With these new Great Observatories,
plus the James Webb Space Telescope, we will extend planetology far beyond the
solar system, and possibly even begin the new field of comparative evolutionary
biology with the discovery of life itself in different astronomical settings.

\\ ( http://arXiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0601469 , 462kb)
ljk4-1
"Cancellation of the long-sought Terrestrial Planet Finder, a mission also supported in the original Vision for Space Exploration, to discover Earth-like planets and possible abodes for life around other stars."

http://www.planetary.org/about/press/relea...ty_Charges.html
ljk4-1
Canceling NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder: The White House's Increasingly
Nearsighted "Vision" For Space Exploration

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1092

To quote:

According to President Bush, as he unveiled his Vision for Space Exploration: "We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos."

If there was one singular mission that embodied humanity casting its collective "vision" outward "into the cosmos" so as to look for places to "head" toward, it was the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

This is a bad decision. A really bad one. In making it, one has to question whether this White House really meant what it said 2 years ago when it raised everyone's expectations, invoking an expansion "into the cosmos" in so doing.

With every passing year this "vision" is becoming increasing nearsighted.


-- Planetary Society Charges Administration with Blurring its Vision for Space
Exploration

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=18944

"The NASA Budget released today shortchanges space science in order to fund 17
projected space shuttle flights. Despite recent spectacular results from NASA's science programs, this budget puts the brakes on their growth within the agency.

"It seriously damages the hugely productive and successful robotic exploration of our solar system and beyond."
antoniseb
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Feb 7 2006, 02:23 PM)
This is a bad decision. A really bad one. In making it, one has to question whether this White House really meant what it said 2 years ago when it raised everyone's expectations, invoking an expansion "into the cosmos" in so doing.
*

Sometimes I wonder whether this is part of a strategy to postpone as long as possible the discovery of life on other planets, so as to not face certain quetions that some categories of fundementalist religious people don't want to have answered.

Independent of that, there's a lot that we could be doing, but aren't. It'll be interesting to see how the priorities shift around 2010 when our obligations to the shuttle and ISS wind down. Will roboic missions start making a comeback?
Adam
TPF cancelled? Oh... Well, we might get Darwin.
ljk4-1
QUOTE (antoniseb @ Feb 8 2006, 12:08 PM)
Sometimes I wonder whether this is part of a strategy to postpone as long as possible the discovery of life on other planets, so as to not face certain quetions that some categories of fundementalist religious people don't want to have answered.
*


Probably not on the surface, but I know there are fundamentalist groups who would love to make sure we are the only intelligent beings in the Universe (outside of God and His Immediate Supernatural Minions, of course - but then they tend to come from another universe already) one way or the other.

In a sense, SETI and Astrobiology are forms of scientific freedom. They allow scientists and laymen to think outside the box while not going to extremes.

http://telicthoughts.com/?p=291
ljk4-1
SPACE TRAVEL

- Griffin Builds Hopes For Terrestrial Planet Finder And Hubble Rescue Missions

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Griffin_...e_Missions.html

Washington, DC (SPX) Feb 12, 2006 - NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said last
week that, in effect, reports of the demise of the Terrestrial Planet Finder -
and perhaps other major space-exploration projects for the future - have been
exaggerated.

- Griffin Remarks To The National Space Club
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Griffin_...Space_Club.html

- Challenging Conventional Space Systems
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/ESA_Seek...ce_Systems.html

- NASA Outlines FY 2006 Operating Plan
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_Out...ating_Plan.html
GravityWaves
Is this mission still in trouble or have funds been restored yet ?
PhilHorzempa



An alternate design that seems to be in the running for TPF is the New Worlds
Imager proposed by Webster Cash. This concept is now receiving Phase II
funding from NIAC. It utilizes a space telescope (perhaps a JWST clone) and
a free-floating starshade. A simpler version, the New Worlds Obsever, as I
understand it, would be equivalent to the TPF-C. The larger version, the
NW Imager would actually start to produce crude images of extra-solar planets.

Here is the Phase I report -

http://niac.usra.edu/files/studies/final_report/999Cash.pdf


Here is the Phase II proposal -

http://niac.usra.edu/files/studies/abstracts/1200Cash.pdf


In addition, here is a link to a story from February of this year, concerning a
sole-source RFP to the Northrop Grumman Corp. and Ball Aerospace Corp. for
further development of the NWI concept.

http://comspacewatch.com/news/views.html?pid=19727



Personally, I think that it should be a strong contender for a TPF, since the
concept can later be scaled up to provide spectroscopy and crude imaging of
extra-solar terrestrial planets.


Another Phil
ustrax
Is there a topic where has been made reference to this?:

http://www.newscientistspace.com/article/d...une-system.html
ljk4-1
QUOTE (ustrax @ May 19 2006, 12:11 PM) *
Is there a topic where has been made reference to this?:

http://www.newscientistspace.com/article/d...une-system.html


Yes, indeed:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...indpost&p=54561
ustrax
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ May 19 2006, 05:14 PM) *



Thank you ljk4-1 smile.gif
remcook
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5010936.stm

" Planet hunters bask in earthshine"
ljk4-1
June 12, 2006

Part IV: Astrobiology

New Worlds Imager

Webster Cash, University of Colorado, Boulder

33 min.

In this lecture, Webster Cash proposes a new telescope design that will take us
much further yet again, and is likely to have as revolutionary an effect. To
date, no planet has been seen around another star, even though the
gravitational effects of their presences have been measured. The planets are
fainter than their host stars by a factor of 1 to 10 billion
(1:10,000,000,000). If we are ever going to directly image exoplanets, the
glare of the central stars must somehow be suppressed by at least an equivalent
amount.

Cash proposes a startlingly simple idea, The New Worlds Observer, an orbiting
telescope with an accompanying occulting starshade 50,000 km distant.

The Evolutionary Biology Lecture of the Week for June 12, 2006 is now available
at:

http://aics-research.com/lotw/
Toymaker
A good news for TPF :
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=21107
QUOTE
The Committee recommends $10,482,000,000 for science, aeronautics and exploration, an increase of $845,273,000 above the fiscal year 2006 enacted level and $41,805,000 below the request.

Science.�The recommendation includes a total of $5,404,800,000 for the Science Mission Directorate, an increase of $75,000,000 above the request. Increases above the request include: $50,000,000 for research and analysis; $15,000,000 to initiate planning for an orbiter/lander mission to Europa; and $10,000,000 for Terrestrial Planet Finder for continued technology development.

(...)
QUOTE
The recommendation provides funding for the continuation of the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF). TPF will study all aspects of planets outside our solar system to find earthlike planets and study those planets' ability to maintain life.
remcook
Nice meaty (39MB) SWG report for TPF-I:

http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/TPFIswgReport2007.pdf
Harder
The SWG report is a fantastic read. The "balance" (if that is the right word) between the technology requirements and the budget requirements to make the TPF happen seems to be about equal in the report. But I believe that is not so - the main issue is technology. Do a search for "error budget" in that SWG report, and the 10 references you will find will make you realize the huge technical obstacles, uncertainties & unknowns which have to be overcome - never mind the money.

I understand that even a custom-made interferometry hardware & infrastructure design like the VLTI in Paranal is now hitting very tough constraints for implementing 2nd generation science equipment.

A little story on the side (not OT I hope):
I'm very interested in adaptive optics & interferometry in general, and I'm looking forward to the break-through science which seems to be on the horizon. So one day, while in London, I walked into the University Bookshop to look for a general textbook on interferometry to complement my old textbook on Optics from my university days. A big choice was awaiting me, kudos to that Bookshop, but unfortunately each and every textbook was way above my general math, process control and optics knowledge - such as it is these days smile.gif . A real pity - the gap is just too big for me to try and latch on.
If there is anyone in UMSF who is better equipped than Yours Truly to stay abreast of the finer details of interferometry developments than I hope we can share via this forum!
GravityWaves
Thank Goodness we are safe, I was almost sure those beancounters were going to get TPF cancelled like they did to MTO
Analyst
I would not call it safe, but at least the project still lives on at a very low level. That is something, but not much. Missions have been canceled much later in their design life.

Great reading, btw.

Analyst
remcook
http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/STDT_R...al_Ex2FF86A.pdf

a similar report for the coronograph one
GravityWaves
NASA Shows Future Space Telescopes Could Detect Earth Twin
April 11, 2007
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2007-039
For the first time ever, NASA researchers have successfully demonstrated in the laboratory that a space telescope rigged with special masks and mirrors could snap a photo of an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. This accomplishment marks a dramatic step forward for missions like the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder, designed to hunt for an Earth twin that might harbor life.
GravityWaves
Exo-Planet Roadmap Advisory Team appointed by ESA

http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/in...fobjectid=42633
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