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LUVOIR will revolutionize huge areas of space science. Its sensitivity and spatial resolution open the door to the ultra-faint and ultra-distant regime, enabling detailed observations of the full variety of galaxies. LUVOIR will dramatically increase the sample size and diversity of exoplanets that can be studied, providing dozens of Earth-like exoplanet candidates that can be probed for signs of life (54 with LUVOIR-A and 28 with LUVOIR-B) and hundreds of non-habitable exoplanets (648 with LUVOIR-A and 576 with LUVOIR-B). Finally, LUVOIR will provide near-flyby quality observations of solar system bodies.
Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Pluto image from Buie et al. 2010.
Credits: NASA / New Horizons / M. Postman (STScI) / A. Roberge (NASA GSFC)
LUVOIR can routinely reveal the internal details of galaxies. Simulations of a distant low-mass galaxy (at z=2) imaged with a 2.4-m space telescope (top left), a 39-m future ground-based telescope (top right), and LUVOIR (bottom panels). These simulations all assume the same total exposure time (500 ksec, corresponding to 17 nights for the ground-based simulation).
Credits: M. Postman, G. Snyder (STScI)
LUVOIR will reveal currently unseen details of the solar system’s dwarf planets. Left: The derived surface map of Pluto from Buie et al. (2010), based on high resolution imaging with HST in the range 280–550 nm. The smallest resolved feature in the HST image corresponds to a projected scale of just under 570 km, assuming a diameter of 2377 km for Pluto. Center and Right: Simulated LUVOIR images of Pluto created assuming similar observing techniques as described in Buie et al. (2010), starting from New Horizons full-resolution color images. The LUVOIR simulations resolve spatial scales of 90 km for LUVOIR-A and 169 km for LUVOIR-B. Credit: M. Postman (STScI)
LUVOIR can monitor individual plumes from solar system ocean moons. The left panel shows an aurora on Europa observed with Hubble (Roth et al. 2014). This UV hydrogen emission comes from dissociation of water vapor in plumes escaping through the moon's ice shell. The center and right panels show simulations of how this emission from Europa might look observed with LUVOIR-B and -A. The moon's surface is bright due to reflected solar hydrogen emission, which was below the background in the Hubble image.
Credit: G. Ballester (LPL) / R. Juanola-Parramon (NASA GSFC)
Imaging another Earth. Simulation of the inner solar system in visible light viewed from a distance of 40 light-years with the 15-m LUVOIR-A space telescope concept. The enormous glare from the central star has been suppressed with a coronagraph instrument so the faint planets can be seen. Each planet's atmosphere can be probed with direct spectra to reveal its composition. The simulation assumes realistic noise sources, wavefront errors, and post-processing.
Credit: R. Juanola Parramon, N. Zimmerman, A. Roberge (NASA GSFC)
LUVOIR will discover dozens of habitable planet candidates and hundreds of other kinds of exoplanets. The chart shows exoplanet detection yields from an initial 2-year survey optimized for habitable planet candidates with LUVOIR-A (blue bars) and -B (green bars). The first column shows the expected yields of habitable planet candidates. Non-habitable planets are detected concurrently during the 2-year survey. Color photometry is obtained for all planets. Orbits and partial spectra capable of detecting water vapor and/or methane are obtained for all habitable planet candidates.
Credit: C. Stark (STScI) / J. Friedlander (NASA GSFC)
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