Enabling the direct detection of earth-sized exoplanets with the LBTI HOSTS project: A progress report

W. Danchi, V. Bailey, G. Bryden, D. Defrère, S. Ertel, C. Haniff, P. Hinz, G. Kennedy, B. Mennesson, R. Millan-Gabet, G. Rieke, A. Roberge, E. Serabyn, A. Skemer, K. Stapelfeldt, A. Weinberger, M. Wyatt, A. Vaz

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

5 Scopus citations


NASA has funded a project called the Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial Systems (HOSTS) to survey nearby solar type stars to determine the amount of warm zodiacal dust in their habitable zones. The goal is not only to determine the luminosity distribution function but also to know which individual stars have the least amount of zodiacal dust. It is important to have this information for future missions that directly image exoplanets as this dust is the main source of astrophysical noise for them. The HOSTS project utilizes the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI), which consists of two 8.4-m apertures separated by a 14.4-m baseline on Mt. Graham, Arizona. The LBTI operates in a nulling mode in the mid-infrared spectral window (8-13 μm), in which light from the two telescopes is coherently combined with a 180 degree phase shift between them, producing a dark fringe at the location of the target star. In doing so the starlight is greatly reduced, increasing the contrast, analogous to a coronagraph operating at shorter wavelengths. The LBTI is a unique instrument, having only three warm reflections before the starlight reaches cold mirrors, giving it the best photometric sensitivity of any interferometer operating in the mid-infrared. It also has a superb Adaptive Optics (AO) system giving it Strehl ratios greater than 98% at 10 μm. In 2014 into early 2015 LBTI was undergoing commissioning. The HOSTS project team passed its Operational Readiness Review (ORR) in April 2015. The team recently published papers on the target sample, modeling of the nulled disk images, and initial results such as the detection of warm dust around I Corvi. Recently a paper was published on the data pipeline and on-sky performance. An additional paper is in preparation on β Leo. We will discuss the scientific and programmatic context for the LBTI project, and we will report recent progress, new results, and plans for the science verification phase that started in February 2016, and for the survey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOptical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V
EditorsMichelle J. Creech-Eakman, Fabien Malbet, Peter G. Tuthill
ISBN (Electronic)9781510601932
StatePublished - 2016
EventOptical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: Jun 27 2016Jul 1 2016

Publication series

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


OtherOptical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Debris Disks
  • Exoplanet Detection
  • Exozodiacal Dust
  • Infrared Astronomy
  • Nulling Interferometry
  • Stellar Interferometry

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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