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Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat 

Speaker: Evgenya Shkolnik (Arizona State University, USA)
Wednesday, 16 June 2021 
10 am GMT+8

Watch it live on BigMarker
Watch it live on Bilibili here!



There are about seventy-five billion terrestrial planets in our one Milky Way galaxy with temperatures capable of supporting surface life. The vast majority of these orbit low-mass stars which are known to be strong ultraviolet (UV) emitters with frequent and energetic flares. Knowing the UV environments of planets of all sizes is crucial to understanding their atmosphericcomposition and evolution. Characterization of the UV environment can provide a key parameter in a planet’s potential to be habitable and helps us to discriminate between biological and abiotic sources for observed biosignatures, gases we hope will be signs of life.  

Prof. Shkolnik will present NASA’s SPARCS (Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat) mission, which will be the first mission to provide the time dependent spectral slope, intensity, and evolution of UV radiation of low-mass stars including the strongest and rarest flares. As demonstrated by planet atmosphere models, these measurements are crucial to interpreting observations of planetary atmospheres around low mass stars. For this we must extend our UV time-domain knowledge from a timescale of half a day to months. A dedicated monitoring experiment, such as SPARCS, is the only way this is achievable.

SPARCS will be a 6U CubeSat devoted to monitoring 20 low-mass stars in two UV bands: SPARCS far-UV (S-FUV: 153–171 nm) and SPARCS near-UV (S-NUV: 260–300 nm). For each target, SPARCS will observe continuously between one and three complete stellar rotations (5–30 days) over a mission lifetime of one year. SPARCS will also achieve the technology demonstration of JPL-developed UV `2D-doped' (i.e., delta- and superlattice-doped) detectors and detector-integrated metal dielectric filters (MDF) in an operational environment. 

About Evgenya Shkolnik

Evgenya Shkolnik is an associate director of the Interplanetary Initiative and an associate professor of astrophysics at Arizona State University in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is an expert on exoplanets and stars, including the Sun. She uses telescopes both on the ground and in space to answer questions involving stellar evolution, exoplanet magnetic fields, and planet habitability.
She is the principal investigator (PI) of the NASA SPARCS CubeSat mission, the PI of UV-SCOPE, a NASA Mid-Ex mission concept, and the PI of the Hubble Space Telescope’s HAZMAT (Habitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time) program. Dr. Shkolnik is also a member of NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, and several Science & Technology Advisory Committees for NASA’s upcoming space missions, as well as a panelist for the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. 


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