Presentation #206.01 in the session Imaging.
Ground-based mid-infrared imaging is close to enabling the direct detection of nearby habitable-zone exoplanets. The ESO/Breakthrough-sponsored New Earths in the Alpha Centauri Region (NEAR) program on the VLT recently completed the first ultra-deep (~100 hr) mid-IR exoplanet imaging campaign and demonstrated the first sensitivity to habitable-zone sub-Neptune-sized planets, leaving just a factor of four in sensitivity to be overcome in order to image potentially rocky planets. This talk will describe our ongoing efforts to upgrade the mid-IR capabilities of the LBT based on the lessons from NEAR, which will enable partially bridging this sensitivity gap. Next, we will discuss the prospects for coordinated deep explorations for low-mass habitable-zone planets around targets visible from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres (e.g., Sirius, Epslion Eridani, etc.). Finally, we will conclude with an introduction of our key observational program, LESSONS: The LBT Exploratory Survey for Super-Earths/Sub-Neptunes Orbiting Nearby Stars, and a roadmap toward imaging habitable-zone Earth-sized planets with the ELTs.