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The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE)

Presentation #311.12 in the session Future Missions and Instrumentations - Icy Bodies, Exoplanets, Stars (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE)

The atmospheric characterization of low-mass temperate exoplanets has been identified as one of the scientific priorities for the coming decades, both by the US Astro2020 Decadal Survey and by the European Space Agency’s Voyage 2050 Senior Committee report. The Astro2020 Decadal Survey recommended a segmented 6-m telescope, now named Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO), to directly image exoplanets in reflected starlight (in the IR/O/UV wavelength range). On the other hand, ESA’s Voyage 2050 report gave high priority to analysing the thermal emission of exoplanets (in the mid-IR). Both are complementary approaches, with spectral ranges that probe unique properties of exoplanets and their atmospheres.

The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE) is a mission proposed to directly image low-mass temperate exoplanets in thermally emitted light (mid-IR). The mission concept consists of multiple free-flying telescopes operating together as a nulling interferometer in space. The mid-IR range enables an accurate estimate of a planet’s temperature and radius and allows us to probe the atmospheric pressure-temperature profile – possibly even down to the surface. It is also sensitive to absorption bands of many atmospheric species, such as H2O, CO2, CH4 or O3, including those relevant for assessing the habitability of an exoplanet and searching for biosignatures.

In this presentation we introduce the LIFE mission concept, show which of the currently known exoplanets are potential targets for LIFE, and discuss the science potential of observing exoplanet at mid-IR wavelengths We also discuss the synergies of LIFE with HWO, in particular how the atmospheric characterization of an exoplanet becomes much more comprehensive if complementary IR/O/UV and mid-IR measurements are available.

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