Aki Roberge, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Study Scientist for LUVOIR.
The Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) is a concept for a highly capable, multi-wavelength observatory with ambitious science goals. This mission would enable great leaps forward in a broad range of science, from the epoch of reionization, through galaxy formation and evolution, star and planet formation, to solar system remote sensing. LUVOIR also has the major goal of characterizing large numbers of exoplanets, including those that might be habitable — or even inhabited. A Decadal Mission Concept Study for LUVOIR began in Jan 2016; further information on all aspects of the study is available at https://asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/luvoir/.
Under the direction of a 24-member Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT), the LUVOIR study has made excellent progress since its inception. Three public meetings of the STDT have taken place; one of these meetings was held jointly with the HabEx STDT. The LUVOIR team has also participated in a number of other conferences, including a full-day special meeting to build bridges with technologists and European scientists, held in conjunction with last summer’s SPIE conference in Edinburgh. Information on future STDT meetings (and remote participation info) may be found in the “Events” tab on the LUVOIR website.
Over several months, a large number of science cases were assembled with extensive input from the broad astrophysics and solar system communities then flowed into observation needs. On the basis of those needs, a suite of four instruments was chosen for study (an optical/near infrared (NIR) coronagraph, an ultraviolet (UV) spectrograph and imager, an optical/NIR wide-field imager, and an optical/NIR spectrograph). A fifth LUVOIR instrument will be studied independently by a consortium of European institutions, under the leadership of the French National Space Agency (CNES). A simulation of an optical coronagraphic image of the solar system at 13 parsecs with a 12-meter telescope appears in Figure 1.
The LUVOIR team has chosen to study two architectures for LUVOIR, one with a primary telescope diameter of around 16-meters (Architecture A) and a second with a diameter of around 9-meters (Architecture B). Both architectures are envisaged as serviceable and upgradable. Detailed engineering design work on Architecture A in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Integrated Design Center began in December 2016, which will culminate in a complete mission design in the summer of 2017.
Meanwhile, additional work on science goals, detailed instrument design, and science return assessment continues. To these ends, the LUVOIR team has developed several tools for simulating various observations with LUVOIR-like observatories. These tools were presented in a hands-on splinter session at the January 2017 American Astronomical Society meeting and are available on-line in the “Simulation Tools” tab on the LUVOIR website. We encourage the community to make use of these tools and to send any and all feedback to the LUVOIR team (contact info on LUVOIR website).