EarthFinder: A Precise Radial Velocity Survey Mission of our Nearest Stellar Neighbors for Earth-Mass Habitable Zone Analogs Using High-Resolution UV-Vis-NIR Echelle Spectroscopy on a Space Platform
We are investigating the science case for a 1.4 meter space telescope to survey the closest, brightest FGKM main sequence stars to search for Habitable Zone (HZ) Earth analogs using the precise radial velocity (PRV) technique at a precision of 1-10 cm/s. Our baseline instrument concept uses two diffraction-limited spectrographs operating in the 0.4-1.0 microns and 1.0-2.4 microns spectral regions each with a spectral resolution of R=150,000~200,000, with the possibility of a third UV arm. With two octaves of wavelength coverage and a cadence unimpeded by any diurnal, seasonal, and atmospheric effects, EarthFinder will offer a unique platform for recovering stellar activity signals from starspots, plages, granulation, etc. to detect exoplanets at velocity semi-amplitudes currently not obtainable from the ground. Variable telluric absorption and emission lines may potentially preclude achieving PRV measurements at or below 10 cm/s in the visible and <50 cm/s in the near-infrared from the ground. Finally, we are compiling a list of ancillary science cases for the observatory, ranging from asteroseismology to the direct measurement of the expansion of the Universe.