ThatGuyWithALongUsername

What would it take to directly image smaller exoplanets? A discussion...

When do you think we'll be able to do this?  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. When do you think we'll be able to do this?

  2. 2. Where will our first pictures of Proxima B come from?

    • Project Starshot!
    • Fancy Telescopes!
    • Neither!
  3. 3. Which telescopes will be built and capable of imaging these?

    • Ground-based telescope array
    • Giant aragoscope
    • Giant regular telescope
    • Space-based telescope array


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I'm going to assume that the aforementioned Hubble images of Pluto are acceptable (ie: built up from a light curve). In that case, you want a space telescope with a starshade to get something earth-like (eg: HabEx, especially as the WFIRST proposals seem mostly dead.) The earliest plausible time is probably the 2030s, but delays are possible. We'll know more once the 2020 decadal survey is finished.

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Timelapse and photo series of an exoplanet (Gas giant Beta Pictoris B) in a distance of 63ly. It orbits its sun in a distance comparable to Saturn and an orbit takes ~22 years. Images taken by the VLT.

https://www.eso.org/public/videos/

https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw/

Getting closer ;-)

(looks like the ESO site has momentary problems with its links)

Youtube works:

 

I am pretty confident that a larger interferometer with the participation of one of the huge dishes under construction can get a pretty close look on much smaller objects closer to their suns.

 

Edited by Green Baron
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Just tried to log in as Green Barnard ....

It took 20 years of observation but there is a good chance that Barnards's Star has a cold rocky planet of >=3 earth masses and an orbit of around 233 days, derived from angular motion. Angular size of orbit could be 220 milliarcseconds, making it a candidate for future direct observation.

For comparison, structures that can be resolved with the EHT are in the range of 20 microarcseceonds ...

paper

 

Edited by Green Baron
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2 minutes ago, Green Baron said:

Just tried to log in as Green Barnard ....

It took 20 years of observation but there is a good chance that Barnards's Star has a cold rocky planet of >=3 earth masses and an orbit of around 233 days, derived from angular motion. Angular size of orbit could be 220 milliarcseconds, making it a candidate for future direct observation.

For comparison, structures that can be resolved with the EHT are in the range of 20 microarcseceonds ...

paper

 

This is the first time I've been ninja'd.

6 hours ago, Green Baron said:

Timelapse and photo series of an exoplanet (Gas giant Beta Pictoris B) in a distance of 63ly. It orbits its sun in a distance comparable to Saturn and an orbit takes ~22 years. Images taken by the VLT.

https://www.eso.org/public/videos/

https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw/

Getting closer ;-)

(looks like the ESO site has momentary problems with its links)

Youtube works:

 

I am pretty confident that a larger interferometer with the participation of one of the huge dishes under construction can get a pretty close look on much smaller objects closer to their suns.

 

Yeah, other examples include 51 Pegasi B and a few others. The problem is, this currently only works on large planets orbiting far from their stars.

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I wouldn't call it a "problem", there are already extraordinary results with the VLT and its new planet imager SPHERE.

https://www.eso.org/public/usa/news/eso1821/ (370ly away)

Just give it a few years more, i say. It is young technology, procedures, data evaluation, observation techniques, that is all in development. Soon(tm) we'll have an image of a rocky planet around a nearby star :-)

Edited by Green Baron
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I can’t believe just a few days ago we were talking about the hopes of imaging Super-Earths, and now there’s Barnard b, a nearly perfect candidate for direct imaging. It’s very nearby, orbits a very faint and small star, and has a pretty wide orbit. I used to think that we wouldn’t get a direct image of a Super-Earth until the 2030’s at the earliest, but if Barnard b does exist — and most evidence says yes — it could be imaged in the mid 2020’s by the new Extremely Large Telescope or the JWST. Unlike every other exoplanet in our solar neighborhood, Barnard b orbits far enough away that it probably hosts moons, which may be detectable by monitoring any changes in the disk of the planet (I’m assuming it’ll only be a dozen or so pixels across). Just the possibility of being able to directly see a rocky Super-Earth and potential detect exomoons at the same time is incredibly exciting. 

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1 hour ago, Green Baron said:

I wouldn't call it a "problem", there are already extraordinary results with the VLT and its new planet imager SPHERE.

https://www.eso.org/public/usa/news/eso1821/ (370ly away)

Just give it a few years more, i say. It is young technology, procedures, data evaluation, observation techniques, that is all in development. Soon(tm) we'll have an image of a rocky planet around a nearby star :-)

I guess I misworded that- it's not a "problem" by any means, just a limitation. It would certainly be better to be able to image more, but being able to image just a few is still amazing and far, far better than nothing, if that made any sense.

58 minutes ago, ProtoJeb21 said:

I can’t believe just a few days ago we were talking about the hopes of imaging Super-Earths, and now there’s Barnard b, a nearly perfect candidate for direct imaging. It’s very nearby, orbits a very faint and small star, and has a pretty wide orbit. I used to think that we wouldn’t get a direct image of a Super-Earth until the 2030’s at the earliest, but if Barnard b does exist — and most evidence says yes — it could be imaged in the mid 2020’s by the new Extremely Large Telescope or the JWST. Unlike every other exoplanet in our solar neighborhood, Barnard b orbits far enough away that it probably hosts moons, which may be detectable by monitoring any changes in the disk of the planet (I’m assuming it’ll only be a dozen or so pixels across). Just the possibility of being able to directly see a rocky Super-Earth and potential detect exomoons at the same time is incredibly exciting. 

Exactly- very exciting!

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2 hours ago, Green Baron said:

I wouldn't call it a "problem", there are already extraordinary results with the VLT and its new planet imager SPHERE.

https://www.eso.org/public/usa/news/eso1821/ (370ly away)

Just give it a few years more, i say. It is young technology, procedures, data evaluation, observation techniques, that is all in development. Soon(tm) we'll have an image of a rocky planet around a nearby star :-)

Yes, also this is mostly an budget issue. 
Find an couple of nice planets with oxygen and traces of methane in the Goldilocks zones and it get an higher priority.  

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And observation time. These machines have a procedure for proposals and a consortium chooses which ones to carry through. There is a long list to work through and they are "booked" a long time in advance. So, even if they decide now to look at Barnard's face, it might take a year or so until they actually do.

But, who knows, maybe somebody is so nice and gives up his turn in favour of ....

(speculating :-))

Edited by Green Baron

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Just checked the ESO site: the VLTI (I=interferometer) has a resolution power of a milliarcsecond at near infrared wavelengths (or as they say 0.1 AU at 100pc). So from that point it could do it if other circumstances permit and Barnard b does exist (which is not yet confirmed).

Edited by Green Baron
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