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The Spectroscopic Abundances to Know the Heritage of M-dwarf Environs through Time (SAKHMET) Balloon Mission

Presentation #319.09 in the session Future Missions, Instrumentations and Facilities - Part 2 (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
The Spectroscopic Abundances to Know the Heritage of M-dwarf Environs through Time (SAKHMET) Balloon Mission

M-dwarf stars are the most common stars in the Milky Way. Their long lifetimes and cool temperatures make them crucial to chemical evolution studies, and they are the easiest targets for Earth-sized exoplanet detections. However, little is known about the chemical make-up of M-dwarfs, which limits our current understanding of star formation history and the links between stellar and planetary composition. The near-infrared (NIR) spectral region is key to measuring M-dwarf abundances, but ground-based observations are impeded by the Earth’s atmosphere – which is opaque in essential spectral regions, while current/planned space-based missions do not provide the necessary spectral resolution. We plan to dramatically expand the current knowledge of M-dwarf compositions by flying the first ever high-resolution NIR spectrograph on a sub-orbital balloon: the Spectroscopic Abundances to Know the Heritage of M-dwarf Environs through Time (SAKHMET) mission. SAKHMET will access fundamentally new spectral bands to observe the largest, homogenous abundance survey of M0-M5 M-dwarfs to date: 12 elements within ~300 stars, doubling the number of spectroscopically characterized M-dwarfs while quadrupling the number of individual abundance measurements. The goal is to understand the formation of the solar neighborhood through the chemistry of M-dwarf stars and their planets. The Science Objectives are: O1) Constrain chemical evolution in the solar neighborhood by measuring M-dwarf (M0-M5) stellar abundances. SAKHMET will provide element abundances that cannot be easily studied in FGK-type stars but are critical for understanding the local galactic history. O2) Determine the expected range of interior structures for small M-dwarf planets using the stellar survey’s elemental abundances. SAKHMET will measure the stellar abundances of planetary building blocks (Mg, Si, and Fe) to determine the range of M-dwarf planetary compositions. The SAKHMET mission will consist of a 0.6-m telescope coupled to an NIR spectrograph that will fly around the Antarctic continent for 30 days. The spectrograph achieves a high resolving power of R≥35,000 between 1.725-4.65 μm, allowing individual atomic and molecular lines to be resolved. By flying at an altitude of ≥36 km, the impact of telluric contamination from the Earth’s atmosphere is minimized. SAKHMET will also achieve the required signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to precisely measure ~3600 total elemental abundances and will provide huge future value for upcoming M-dwarf stellar observations and planetary detections.

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