17-21 March 2019
Sunstar Hotel, Grindelwald, Switzerland
Europe/Zurich timezone

EarthFinder: A Probe-Class Mission Precise for a Radial Velocity Survey of our Nearest Stellar Neighbors to detect and characterize Earth-Mass Habitable Zone Analogs Using High-Resolution UV-Vis-NIR Echelle Spectroscopy

Not scheduled
Sunstar Hotel, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Sunstar Hotel, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Dorfstrasse 168, 3818 Grindelwald Switzerland
Poster Future instruments


Peter Plavchan (George Mason University)


We present the science case for a 1.45 meter space telescope to survey the closest, brightest FGKM main sequence stars to search for Habitable Zone (HZ) Earth analogs using the precise radial velocity (PRV) technique at a precision of 1-10 cm/s. Our baseline instrument concept uses three diffraction-limited spectrographs operating in the 0.3-0.4, 0.4-0.9, and 0.9-2.4 microns spectral regions each with a spectral resolution of R=150,000~200,000. Because the instrument utilizes a diffraction-limited input beam, each spectrograph arm will be extremely compact, less than 50 cm on a side, and illumination can be stabilized with the coupling of starlight into single mode fibers. With two octaves of wavelength coverage and a cadence unimpeded by any diurnal, atmospheric and most seasonal effects, EarthFinder will offer a unique platform for recovering stellar activity signals from starspots, plages, granulation, etc. to detect exoplanets at velocity semi-amplitudes currently not obtainable from the ground. Variable telluric absorption and emission lines may potentially preclude achieving PRV measurements at or below 10 cm/s in the visible and <50 cm/s in the near-infrared from the ground. Placed in an Earth-trailing (e.g. Spitzer, Kepler) or Lagrange orbit, the space-based cadence of observations of a star can be year-round at the ecliptic poles, with two 90-day "seasons" every 6 months in the ecliptic plane. This cadence and wavelength coverage will provide a distinct advantage compared to an annual ~3-6 month observing season from the ground for mitigating stellar activity and detecting the orbital periods of HZ Earth-mass analogs (e.g. ~6-months to ~2 years). Finally, we have compiled a list of ancillary science cases for the observatory, ranging from asteroseismology to the direct measurement of the expansion of the Universe.

Primary authors

Peter Plavchan (George Mason University) EarthFinder Team

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