Extrasolar planetary detection via stellar occultation: a novel ″smaller, cheaper, faster″ concept employing the Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope presents unique possibilities for the detection of extrasolar planets. The enormous difference in light intensity between such a planet and its associated star makes detection of any planetary signal intrinsically very difficult. By deploying an inflatable sphere to act as an occulting disk to eclipse the direct light from the associated star, the technical difficulty of planetary detection is greatly reduced. However, observation periods might need to be restricted to times when the occulting structure is in the shadow of the earth or the moon, since light reflected by this structure would impede the detection of any planetary optical signal. Inflatable structure technologies necessary to implement such an idea have already been proven by the success of Echo I. Detailed analysis of possible orbits for the occulting sphere and its concomitant dimension are presented together with a history of this concept. A highly accurate occulting sphere would also make possible a telescope of truly novel concept, here termed a diffracting telescope. Such a telescope would use the occulting sphere as its objective lens, and would have a resolution limit based on the diameter of that sphere, in analogy with the Rayleigh limit criterion for refracting and reflecting telescopes.
Cocks, FH; Bischoff, JE; Watkins, SA; Higuchi, K; Bely, PY
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