The project "A CUTE Data sImulatoR aNd reDuction pipeLine" (ACUTEDIRNDL) is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) under the ASAP13 scheme and as part of the Austrian contribution to the CUTE mission.
The long-term evolution of a planetary atmosphere is predominantly controlled by escape, a process leading atmospheric gas to leave the planet's gravitational well and disperse into space. The ultraviolet (UV) transit observations of extra-solar planets conducted so far led to the detection of a large variety of phenomena, but, at present, the theories explaining them exceed the number of relevant transit observations. There is a whole wealth of phenomena, also variable in time, that requires a large observational effort to understand, effort that cannot be undertaken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is our almost only UV “eye” and has now a very limited life-time.
Owing to the large size of the transiting atmospheres and to the short orbital periods of close-in planets, the physics of atmospheric mass-loss can be studied with a dedicated small instrument operating at near-UV wavelengths (250 - 320 nm). In 2017, NASA has approved funding to build, launch, and operate the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE), which is a 6U CubeSat specifically designed to provide exactly the kind of spectroscopic observations that are urgently needed to further understand atmospheric escape.
We develop CUTE's data simulator, generate an exposure time and signal-to-noise calculator, and perform tests to foresee the effects of possible deviations from the nominal instrument alignment. We have simulated CUTE's optical system and performed ray tracing from the light source onto the CCD detector using point-like light sources with different spectral distributions and fluxes to simulate data obtained by observing different stellar types and magnitudes. The CUTE data simulator is used to construct synthetic CUTE transit datasets that are used to train the science team in the data analysis.
The project ended in October 2018.
Luca Fossati (PI)
Sreejith Aickara Gopinathan (main project postdoc/engineer)