NIAC Phase II Award: Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

The Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets Concept. (Credit: Chris Mann)

Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

Chris Mann
Nanohmics, Inc.
Austin, Texas

Amount: up to $500,000
Length of Study: 2 years

Description

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 possibly image exoplanets using modern computational imaging techniques.

A mission utilizing 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 multikilometer-baseline fringe-tracking, particularly in a photon-starved regime.

The concept is also viable for survey missions for detecting exoplanets at more diverse orbital inclinations than is possible with transit or radial velocity techniques.

Under a Phase I NIAC program, we evaluated the feasibility of the stellar echo technique and, while several practical constraints have been identified, we have not identified any fundamental limitations.

We determined that the foundational technology already exists and has high TRL in space missions. Furthermore, the measurements required to demonstrate the feasibility of stellar echo detection are complementary to asteroseismology measurements, so a demonstration mission would provide high-value scientific information to other active astrophysics programs.

Under the Phase II program, we will continue to advance the theoretical understanding of stellar echo imaging, improve on the computational methods developed in Phase I, evaluate specific hardware implementations, and ultimately produce a roadmap for the demonstration of stellar echo detection and imaging of exoplanets.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

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NASA Selects CubeSat & NanoSat Proposals for SBIR & STTR Awards

Two ESA CubeSats, the student-built AAUSat-5 and the professional technology demonstrator GomX-3, were deployed together from the International Space Station on 5 October 2015, going on to separate to begin their missions. (Credit: NASA)
Two ESA CubeSats, the student-built AAUSat-5 and the professional technology demonstrator GomX-3, were deployed together from the International Space Station on 5 October 2015, going on to separate to begin their missions. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected at at least 28 proposals involving Cube-, nano- and micro-sats for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase I awards.

The total includes 23 SBIR and five STTR projects. Companies are partnered with university researchers for the STTR awards.

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NIAC Focus: Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

niac_stellar_echo_exoplanet_mann
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.

NASA Selects 13 NIAC Phase I Projects

Artists depiction of an asteroid being reconstituted into a mechanical automata. (Credit: Made in Space)
Artists depiction of an asteroid being reconstituted into a mechanical automata. (Credit: Made in Space)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 13 proposals through NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that invests in transformative architectures through the development of pioneering technologies.

Among the selected are: a concept for reprogramming microorganisms that could use the Martian environment to recycle and print electronics; a two-dimensional spacecraft with ultra-thin subsystems that may wrap around space debris to enable de-orbiting; and a method of computational imaging that leverages extrasolar intensity fluctuations to detect “echoes” from planets and other structures orbiting a distant star.

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NASA Eyes Sending CubeSats into Deep Space

CubeSat
CubeSat

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

So far, CubeSats have been used exclusively in Earth orbit. But, imagine a fleet of these tiny spacecraft fanning out to the moon and other deep-space destinations.

That’s what NASA has in mind. The space agency has just committed about $1.1 million to fund nine research projects that address different deep-space cubesat technologies. The funding is part of the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Select Phase 1 grants announced earlier this week.

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