Characterizing Exoplanets in the Visible and Infrared: a Spectrometer Concept for the EChO Space Mission
Journal article, 2013
Transit-spectroscopy of exoplanets is one of the key observational techniques used to characterize extrasolar planets and their atmospheres. The observational challenges of these measurements require dedicated instrumentation and only the space environment allows undisturbed access to earth-like atmospheric features such as water or carbon dioxide. Therefore, several exoplanet-specific space missions are currently being studied. One of them is EChO, the Exoplanet Characterization Observatory, which is part of ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program, and which is one of four candidates for the M3 launch slot in 2024.
In this paper we present the results of our assessment study of the EChO spectrometer, the only science instrument onboard this spacecraft. The instrument is a multi-channel all-reflective dispersive spectrometer, covering the wavelength range from 400 nm to 16μm simultaneously with a moderately low spectral resolution. We illustrate how the key technical challenge of the EChO mission — the high photometric stability — influences the choice of spectrometer concept and fundamentally drives the instrument design. First performance evaluations underline the suitability of the elaborated design solution for the needs of the EChO mission.