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Published September 26, 2013 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

The Debris Disk Explorer: a balloon-borne coronagraph for observing debris disks


The Debris Disk Explorer (DDX) is a proposed balloon-borne investigation of debris disks around nearby stars. Debris disks are analogs of the Asteroid Belt (mainly rocky) and Kuiper Belt (mainly icy) in our Solar System. DDX will measure the size, shape, brightness, and color of tens of disks. These measurements will enable us to place the Solar System in context. By imaging debris disks around nearby stars, DDX will reveal the presence of perturbing planets via their influence on disk structure, and explore the physics and history of debris disks by characterizing the size and composition of disk dust. The DDX instrument is a 0.75-m diameter off-axis telescope and a coronagraph carried by a stratospheric balloon. DDX will take high-resolution, multi-wavelength images of the debris disks around tens of nearby stars. Two flights are planned; an overnight test flight within the United States followed by a month-long science flight launched from New Zealand. The long flight will fully explore the set of known debris disks accessible only to DDX. It will achieve a raw contrast of 10^(−7), with a processed contrast of 10^(−8). A technology benefit of DDX is that operation in the near-space environment will raise the Technology Readiness Level of internal coronagraphs, deformable mirrors, and wavefront sensing and control, all potentially needed for a future space-based telescope for high-contrast exoplanet imaging.

Additional Information

© 2013 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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