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Terrestrial Planet Finder: science overviewThe Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) seeks to revolutionize our understanding of humanity's place in the universe - by searching for Earth-like planets using reflected light, or thermal emission in the mid-infrared. Direct detection implies that TPF must separate planet light from glare of the nearby star, a technical challenge which has only in recent years been recognized as surmountable. TPF will obtain a low-resolution spectra of each planets it detects, providing some of its basic physical characteristics and its main atmospheric constituents, thereby allowing us to assess the likelihood that habitable conditions exist there. NASA has decided the scientific importance of this research is so high that TPF will be pursued as two complementary space observatories: a visible-light coronagraph and a mid-infrared formation flying interferometer. The combination of spectra from both wavebands is much more valuable than either taken separately, and it will allow a much fuller understanding of the wide diversity of planetary atmospheres that may be expected to exist. Measurements across a broad wavelength range will yield not only physical properties such as size and albedo, but will also serve as the foundations of a reliable and robust assessment of habitability and the presence of life.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Unwin, Stephen C.
Beichman, C. A.
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
June 21, 2004
Subject Category
Instrumentation and Photography
Meeting Information
International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation 2004(Glasgow, Scotland)
Distribution Limits
comparative planetology
Extrasolar planets