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Bioverse: a simulation framework to assess the statistical power of future biosignature surveys

Presentation #0303 in the session “Information Differences Based on Observing Distance”.

Published onMar 17, 2021
Bioverse: a simulation framework to assess the statistical power of future biosignature surveys

Next-generation space observatories will conduct the first systematic search for life beyond the Solar System. Through statistical analyses of a large enough sample of exoplanets, such surveys could answer questions about what makes planets habitable and how terrestrial planets evolve. We describe our code, Bioverse, which assesses the potential of future exoplanet observatories to test specific statistical hypotheses as a function of their design, survey strategy, and statistical sources of noise. In two examples of its usage, we explore the requirements for conceptual next-generation observatories to (i) test the habitable zone concept and (ii) study the oxygen evolution of inhabited planets. Our analysis factors in realistic simulations of direct imaging and transit spectra (including the effects of cloud cover) and considers a range of values for yet-unknown astrophysical parameters (such as the frequency of habitable and inhabited worlds). These results — representing two of the many potential cases which Bioverse can address — will help to maximize the scientific output of future flagship missions.

Figure 1

A dataset from a simulated Bioverse direct imaging survey of terrestrial planets, indicating which planets possess atmospheric H2O as a function of distance from their host stars (aeff, normalized by stellar luminosity). Such planets appear to be more common within a finite range of distances (gray), suggesting the existence of a habitable zone with a higher abundance of ocean worlds. Using Bioverse, we determine the statistical significance of this result as a function of observatory design and astrophysical parameters. Adapted from Bixel & Apai (under review).

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