Characterizing earth-like planets with terrestrial planet finder

S. Seager, E. B. Ford, E. L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


For the first time in human history the possibility of detecting and studying Earth-like planets is on the horizon. Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), with a launch date in the 2015 timeframe, is being planned by NASA to find and characterize planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. The mission Darwin from ESA has similar goals. The motivation for both of these space missions is the detection and spectroscopic characterization of extrasolar terrestrial planet atmospheres. Of special interest are atmospheric biomarkers - such as O2, O3, H2O, CO and CH4 - which are either indicative of life as we know it, essential to life, or can provide clues to a planet's habitability. A mission capable of measuring these spectral features would also obtain sufficient signal-to-noise to characterize other terrestrial planet properties. For example, physical characteristics such as temperature and planetary radius can be constrained from low-resolution spectra. In addition, planet characteristics such as weather, rotation rate, presence of large oceans or surface ice, and existence of seasons could be derived from photometric measurements of the planet's variability. We will review the potential to characterize terrestrial planets beyond their spectral signatures. We will also discuss the possibility to detect strong surface biomarkers - such as Earth's vegetation red edge near 700 nm - that are different from any known atomic, molecular, or mineralogical signature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2002
EventFuture research Direction and Visions for Astronomy - Waikoloa, HI, United States
Duration: Aug 25 2002Aug 26 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Extrasolar planets
  • Life


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