Blue Dots

Announcement to constitute de group

Dear all,

I’m contacting you on behalf of the Blue Dot Team.

Some of you have already heard about this group which is coordinated by Vincent Coudé du Foresto and was initiated by the Darwin former team as a response to the non-selection of missions geared to direct imaging of exoplanets at the ESA COSMIC VISION.

For those who haven’t heard about the Blue Dot Team (BDT), this idea has started late 2007 after a meeting of the Darwin team, and Vincent was designated to set up a committee to promote this scientific objective in order to be prepared for the next round of COSMIC VISION (presumably in 2 years from now). The plan is therefore to propose a science oriented "roadmap" towards the detection of "telluric habitable planets". The goal is therefore not being focused on the traditional Darwin concept but includes other methods and not only focused on the final goal. A mission with a less ambitious goal can be considered as a precursor for instance. Hopefully, this roadmap will make a consensus within the community. Vincent has received almost 200 responses of various persons willing to participate in this study.

The Blue Dot Team (BDT) is composed of a group devoted to astrophysical parameters (modeling of atmosphere, formation and evolution, spectral and bio-signatures, habitability criteria) and one for the technical matter (radial velocity, transit, microlensing, astrometry, single aperture imaging, multiple aperture imaging) plus other participants representing an international institute (like ESO) or a non European country (Russia, China, Japan ). NASA is also present (C. Beichman) but ESA is not willing to appoint someone for the BDT. ESA is actually constituting its own task force and the role of these 2 groups need to be clarified.

I’ve been asked to coordinate the Single Aperture Imaging (SAI) working group and therefore I’m contacting you to participate in this work (either because you have replied to the first Vincent’s announcement or because of your expertise in this field). First of all, you will note that the group is not named "coronagraphy" as usual because the problem is broader and involves other high contrast imaging techniques like wavefront correction or differential imaging.

The BDT had its Kick Off in Paris on March 20th, and regular meetings will be held every 2 months. The prime goal of the BDT is to design a roadmap and for that Vincent has proposed to make a call for white papers in each sub-community. This call will be issued sometimes in May 2008 and we expect some answers for Sept-Oct 2008. These white papers will be analyzed by the BDT and we have planned a conference in Sept 2009 which will be the conclusion of the BDT.

As for the white papers, we do not expect much different answers than for the Cosmic Vision but the idea is to include all projects involved in the Search for Exoplanets (regarding Single Aperture Imaging). The proposals can be ranked at different levels as suggested by Vincent and not only restrained to the ESA categories but also involving ground-based projects :
- L mission
- M mission
- ELT/Dome C instrument
- VLT instrument

For instance, SPHERE is clearly in the last category and must be involved in the whole roadmap, similarly for EPICS. But other suggestions for the ground are possible. The proposals will be length limited (probably 4 pages) and must clearly address the science goal, the concept of the instrument, the expect performance, expected cost, time of development, key technologies, and if possible it should be indicated how it fits in the roadmap towards telluric habitable planets. It shouldn’t be "just" a technical proposals as most of the COSMIC VISION proposals. This point was the major critiscm by ESA regarding Exoplanet Direct Imaging proposals and this is precisely what we must improve now.

The intent of this email was first to inform you about the goal/plans of the BDT and second to ask who is willing to participate in this sub-group. Ideally there should be at least one person of each contacted institute or group. I may have forget some people, so don’t hesitate to distribute. In addition to the call for white papers I had in mind a better "characterization" of the many techniques involved in Direct Imaging on Single Apertures. This is detailed in a presentation made at the BDT Kick Off regarding the goals of the Single Aperture Imaging working group (attached to this email).

Best regards,

Anthony Boccaletti

Wednesday 21 May 2008 by Anthony Boccaletti