The habitable exoplanet (HabEx) imaging mission: Preliminary science drivers and technical requirements

Bertrand Mennesson, Scott Gaudi, Sara Seager, Kerri Cahoy, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Lee Feinberg, Olivier Guyon, Jeremy Kasdin, Christian Marois, Dimitri Mawet, Motohide Tamura, David Mouillet, Timo Prusti, Andreas Quirrenbach, Tyler Robinson, Leslie Rogers, Paul Scowen, Rachel Somerville, Karl Stapelfeldt, Daniel SternMartin Still, Margaret Turnbull, Jeffrey Booth, Alina Kiessling, Gary Kuan, Keith Warfield

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

109 Scopus citations


HabEx is one of four candidate flagship missions being studied in detail by NASA, to be submitted for consideration to the 2020 Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics for possible launch in the 2030s. It will be optimized for direct imaging and spectroscopy of potentially habitable exoplanets, and will also enable a wide range of general astrophysics science. HabEx aims to fully characterize planetary systems around nearby solar-type stars for the first time, including rocky planets, possible water worlds, gas giants, ice giants, and faint circumstellar debris disks. In particular, it will explore our nearest neighbors and search for signs of habitability and biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky planets in the habitable zones of their parent stars. Such high spatial resolution, high contrast observations require a large (roughly greater than 3.5m), stable, and diffraction-limited optical space telescope. Such a telescope also opens up unique capabilities for studying the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. We present some preliminary science objectives identified for HabEx by our Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT), together with a first look at the key challenges and design trades ahead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016
Subtitle of host publicationOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
EditorsHoward A. MacEwen, Makenzie Lystrup, Giovanni G. Fazio
ISBN (Electronic)9781510601871
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jul 1 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Biosignatures
  • Coronagraph
  • Exoplanets
  • Galaxy formation and evolution
  • High contrast imaging
  • Starshade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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