By Wes Traub
Following up on the resolution by the Exoplanet Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG) in early January 2011, that our planning for a direct imaging mission in the 2020s should include the UVOIR community, there was a joint one-day meeting on 26 April, at STScI, of folks from both the COPAG and ExoPAG areas, to begin the dialogue. Briefly, the participants agreed that it is worthwhile to pursue thinking about the science goals of a joint mission, and they agreed to focus on two architectures to give us specific issues to address: (a) a 4-m monolithic telescope with an internal coronagraph, or alternatively an 8x3.5-m one similar to the TPF-C design; and (b) an 8-m segmented telescope that relies on an external occulter. Presentations and a meeting summary are at http://exep.jpl.nasa.gov/exopag/exopagCopagJointMeeting/
The meeting received publicity, even before the event, in a Nature article, at
In a further development, the UVOIR community, represented by the Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group (COPAG), hosted a session on 24 May, at the AAS meeting in Boston, devoted to discussing the joint exoplanet-UVOIR mission concept. The spirit of the meeting was generally positive. A notice of the meeting is at http://cor.gsfc.nasa.gov/copag/mtgs/aas_may2011/.
A major exoplanet science meeting was held in Flagstaff, AZ, on 1-6 May, the “Exploring Strange New Worlds: From Giant Planets to Super Earths” conference. This is the latest in the series of Europe-US alternating meetings, the previous one being in Barcelona (and the likely next one being there as well). The presentations are on-line at http://nexsci.caltech.edu/conferences/Flagstaff/agenda.shtml.
The ExoPAG met on 1-2 June in Alexandria, VA. A major topic of discussion was the planned Imaging Performance Study, designed to start in Fall 2011, and continue through about December 2012. The current plan is that this would be followed by two or three year-long studies by Interim Science Working Groups (ISWGs) to define direct imaging mission concepts for the 2020s, and that this phase would in turn be followed by a selection of a leading architecture, through a mechanism yet to be defined, but likely involving a review process and a selection by NASA headquarters. The ExoPAG meeting is listed at http://exep.jpl.nasa.gov/exopag/exopag4/.
Meanwhile, the WFIRST project has been working on a report, to be delivered in June, defining the science goals and tentative design considerations for that mission. The science goals remain as specified by the Astro2010 report: microlensing for exoplanets, dark energy, and a wide-field infrared survey. The mission website is at http://wfirst.gsfc.nasa.gov/.