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    John M. Davidson
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    ABSTRACT: We present an approach for utilizing astrometric orbit information to improve the yield of planetary images and spectra from a follow-on direct detection mission. This approach is based on the notion-strictly hypothetical-that if a particular star could be observed continuously, the instrument would in time observe all portions of the habitable zone so that no planet residing therein could be missed. This strategy could not be implemented in any realistic mission scenario. But if an exoplanet's orbit is known from astrometric observation, then it may be possible to plan and schedule a sequence of imaging observations that is the equivalent of continuous observation. A series of images-optimally spaced in time-could be recorded to examine contiguous segments of the orbit. In time, all segments would be examined, leading to the inevitable detection of the planet. In this paper, we show how astrometric orbit information can be used to construct such a sequence. Using stars from astrometric and imaging target lists, we find that the number of observations in this sequence typically ranges from 2 to 7, representing the maximum number of observations required to find the planet. The probable number of observations ranges from 1.5 to 3.1. This is a dramatic improvement in efficiency over previous methods proposed for utilizing astrometric orbits. We examine how the implementation of this approach is complicated and limited by operational constraints. We find that it can be fully implemented for internal coronagraph and visual nuller missions, with a success rate approaching 100%. External occulter missions will also benefit, but to a lesser degree.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2010