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Sensors 2017, 17(3), 493;

A Cubesat Payload for Exoplanet Detection

Department of Industrial Engineering—Aerospace Division, University of Naples Federico II, 80125 Naples, Italy
INAF—Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Florence, Italy
INAF—Astrophysical Observatory of Capodimonte, Salita Moiariello, 16, 80131 Naples, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Caterina Ciminelli
Received: 5 January 2017 / Revised: 18 February 2017 / Accepted: 23 February 2017 / Published: 2 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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The search for undiscovered planets outside the solar system is a scientific topic that is rapidly spreading into the astrophysical and engineering communities. In this framework, the design of an innovative payload to detect exoplanets from a nano-sized space platform, like a 3U cubesat, is presented. The selected detection method is photometric transit, and the payload aims to detect flux decrements down to ~0.01% with a precision of 12 ppm. The payload design is also aimed at false positive recognition. The solution consists of a four-facets pyramid on the top of the payload, to allow for measurement redundancy and low-resolution spectral dispersion of the star images. The innovative concept is the use of a small and cheap platform for a relevant astronomical mission. The faintest observable target star has V-magnitude equal to 3.38. Despite missions aimed at ultra-precise photometry from microsatellites (e.g., MOST, BRITE), the transit of exoplanets orbiting very bright stars has not yet been surveyed photometrically from space, since any observation from a small/medium sized (30 cm optical aperture) telescope would saturate the detector. This cubesat mission can provide these missing measurements. This work is set up as a demonstrative project to verify the feasibility of the payload concept. View Full-Text
Keywords: exoplanets; cubesat; photometric transit; photometry; pyramid; false positive exoplanets; cubesat; photometric transit; photometry; pyramid; false positive

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Iuzzolino, M.; Accardo, D.; Rufino, G.; Oliva, E.; Tozzi, A.; Schipani, P. A Cubesat Payload for Exoplanet Detection. Sensors 2017, 17, 493.

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