NIAC Focus: Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

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Graphic depiction of the Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets using an interferometric technique. (Credit; Nanohmics)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is a proposal submitted by Chris Mann of Nanohmics, Inc.

Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

Chris Mann
Nanohmics, Inc.

All stars exhibit intensity fluctuations over several time scales, from nanoseconds to days; these intensity fluctuations echo off planetary bodies in the star system and provide an opportunity to detect and image exoplanets using modern computational imaging techniques. A mission utilizing distributed-aperture stellar echo detectors could provide continent-level imaging of exoplanets more readily than interferometric techniques, as high temporal resolution detection is less technically challenging and more cost effective than multi-kilometer-baseline fringe-tracking, particularly in a photon-starved regime. The concept is viable for detecting exoplanets at more diverse orbital inclinations than is possible with transit or radial velocity techniques.