Science and Engineering
University of California, Berkeley
The Kepler Mission has demonstrated the existence of large numbers of Earth-size planets and smaller, but most of them reside over 300 parsecs away, making follow-up study of those planetary systems difficult at best. A team at Berkeley proposes to discover Earth-size planets around nearby stars (within 25 parsecs) to permit imaging and spectroscopy of those nearest planetary systems, and to allow measurements of their outer planets, zodiacal dust, and host star properties. They will build a novel "Habitable Worlds Spectrometer" designed specifically to detect the tiny Doppler shifts of nearby stars that can reveal the Earth-size planets orbiting them. The spectrometer will be deployed at the new 2.4-meter APF Telescope at Lick Observatory, for which the team has access 45% of nights. This spectrometer will achieve a Doppler precision of 0.3 m/s, which is 5x better than the spectrometer designed 10 years ago that is currently being commissioned on the APF. The proposed spectrometer enables the detection of Earth-mass planets. This will be accomplished with a design innovation that shrinks and stabilizes the spectrometer by employing an octagonal fiber that is split into four smaller fiber-optics, thereby slicing the stellar image to half-size. This design permits the detection of Earth-size planets orbiting inward of the habitable zones of nearby stars.
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