Twinkle: a low-Earth orbit, visible and infrared observatory for exoplanet and solar system spectroscopy

LASP Science Seminars

Twinkle: a low-Earth orbit, visible and infrared observatory for exoplanet and solar system spectroscopy

Max Joshua (Blue Skies Space Ltd.), Billy Edwards (UCL), Ian Stotesbury (Blue Skies Space Ltd.)
September 24, 2020
16:00 MT/MDT

The Twinkle Space Mission is a space-based observatory that has been conceived to measure the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, stars and solar system objects. The satellite is based on a high-heritage platform and will carry a 0.45m telescope with a visible and infrared spectrograph providing simultaneous wavelength coverage from 0.5 – 4.5μm. The spacecraft will be launched into a Sun-synchronous low-Earth polar orbit and will operate in this highly stable thermal environment for a baseline lifetime of seven years.

Twinkle will have the capability to provide high-quality infrared spectroscopic characterisation of the atmospheres of at least one hundred bright exoplanets, covering a wide range of planetary types. It will also be capable of providing phase curves for hot, short-period planets around bright stars and of providing ultra-precise photometric light curves to accurately constrain orbital parameters, including ephemerides and TTVs/TDVs present in multi-planet systems.

Twinkle’s rapid pointing and non-sidereal tracking capabilities will enable the observation of a diverse array of solar system objects, including asteroids and comets. Twinkle aims to provide a visible and near-infrared spectroscopic population study of asteroids and comets to study their surface composition and monitor activity. Its wavelength coverage and position above the atmosphere will make it particularly well-suited for studying hydration features that are obscured by telluric lines from the ground as well as searching for other spectral signatures such as organic features, silicates and CO2.

Twinkle is available for researchers around the globe in two ways:

1) joining its collaborative multi-year survey programme, which will observe hundreds of exoplanets and solar system objects; and

2) accessing dedicated telescope time on the spacecraft, which can be scheduled for any combination of science cases.

We will present an overview of Twinkle’s science capabilities, the spacecraft design and discuss some example exoplanet and solar system surveys to highlight the broad range of targets the mission could observe, demonstrating the huge scientific potential of the spacecraft.

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