Darwin

Darwin is a proposed ESA mission which has many similarities with the IR option of NASA's TPF mission. Recent Darwin designs have a flotilla of six free-flying telescopes, each with a mirror diameter in excess of 1.5 m to observe the thermal-IR spectra of terrestrial extrasolar planets through the technique of nulling interferometry. It is proposed to place the flotilla of spacecraft at the Earth-Sun L2 point, where the telescopes will cool to ^40 K and the detecting elements themselves to as low as 8K (Figure 8.13).

To demonstrate the feasibility of the nulling interferometric approach on the ground, ESA and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) are developing a nulling interferometer to be used at the VLTI facility in Chile, outlined earlier in Section 8.2.1.

Since Darwin shares so many similarities with TPF it is quite possible that NASA and ESA may join forces in the next few years to develop a joint mission to search for terrestrial planets about other stars.

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