The new worlds observer: A mission for high-resolution spectroscopy of extra-solar terrestrial planets

Willard L. Simmons, Webster C. Cash, Sara Seager, Erik Wilkinson, N. Jeremy Kasdin, Robert J. Vanderbei, Naomi Chow, Erica Gralla, Johanna Kleingeld

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The New Worlds Observer (NWO) is a proposed space mission to provide high resolution spectroscopy from the far UV to the near IR of extra-solar terrestrial sized planets. The design of NWO is based on the concept of a large, space-based, pinhole camera made up of two spacecraft flying in formation. The first spacecraft is a large, thin occulting shield (perhaps hundreds of meters in diameter) with a shaped "pinhole" aperture about 10m in diameter. The second spacecraft is a conventional-quality space telescope (possibly with a 10m primary mirror) which "flies" through the pinhole image of the planetary system to observe the extra-solar planets free from stellar background. In this paper we describe the design of the two spacecraft system. In particular, the shaped-pinhole design utilizes the shaped-pupil coronagraph pioneered for the Terrestrial Planet Finder. In this paper we describe some of the NWO's technology challenges and science opportunities. Additionally, we describe an extension of the design to provide 100km resolution images of extra-solar planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1634-1645
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Issue numberPART 3
StatePublished - 2004
EventOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Space Telecopes - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: Jun 21 2004Jun 25 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Astronomy
  • Exo-planets
  • Extra-solar planets
  • Formation flying spacecraft
  • Pinhole camera
  • Planet finding
  • Shaped-pupil coronagraph
  • Space observatories
  • Spectroscopy


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