NEAR : Imaging massive rocky planets in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri

mardi 8 octobre 2019, par Anne-Lise Maire, Université de Liège (Belgique)

Lundi 14 octobre 2019 à 16h00 , Lieu : Salle de conférence du bâtiment 17

The New Earths in the Alpha Cen Region campaign is a 100-h observing program to image massive rocky planets in the habitable zone of the two stars of Alpha Cen, our nearest neighboring stars. This program is a collaboration between the Breakthrough Initiatives and ESO and was launched in 2016. To achieve the challenging goal of NEAR, the VLT MIR instrument VISIR was removed from UT3 for upgrades and installed at UT4 in order to couple it the Adaptive Optics Facility. The University of Liege provided an optimized vortex coronagraph for NEAR. After a successful commissioning in April and May 2019, the NEAR campaign was completed in May-June 2019. The campaign generated >6 TB of data, which are available to the community in the ESO archive. The data are currently under analysis by the NEAR collaboration. I will present the context of the project, my work on assessing the performance of the NEAR vortex coronagraph and on the data analysis, and the prospects for imaging Earth-mass planets around Alpha Cen from the ground in the near future.