The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) Coronagraph Instrument (CGI) is a high-contrast imager and integral field spectrograph that will enable the study of exoplanets and circumstellar disks at visible wavelengths. Future flagship mission concepts aim to image Earth analogues with visible light flux ratios greater than 10^10, and CGI is a critical intermediate step toward that goal. CGI will have ~3 months of observing time during the first 18 months of the mission (its "tech demo phase") to demonstrate its technology objectives and to determine whether its as-built performance justifies additional science observing time during the remainder of the mission. We present the CGI portion of the preliminary WFIRST Design Reference Mission (DRM). We describe the suite of anticipated observing and calibration tasks, the preliminary target list, and a schedule with realistic observing constraints and exposure times. We expect that during the tech demo phase CGI will image multiple planets and circumstellar disks in reflected light and take a spectrum of a mature Jupiter analog in reflected light. Furthermore, CGI is expected to be more sensitive than any previous instrument to extrasolar zodiacal dust and has the potential to study very young (proto)planetary systems.
Roughly 40 billion M dwarfs in our galaxy host at least one small planet in the habitable zone (HZ). The stellar ultraviolet (UV) radiation from M dwarfs is strong and highly variable, and impacts planetary atmospheric loss, composition and habitability. These effects are amplified by the extreme proximity of their HZs (0.1–0.4 AU). Knowing the UV environments of M dwarf planets will be crucial to understanding their atmospheric composition and a key parameter in discriminating between biological and abiotic sources for observed biosignatures. The Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) will be a 6U CubeSat devoted to photometric monitoring of M stars in the far-UV and near-UV, measuring the time-dependent spectral slope, intensity and evolution of low-mass star high-energy radiation.
NESSI (New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument) was originally conceived, designed and built under a NASA NM-EPSCoR funded effort as a near-infrared multi-object spectrograph for characterizing exoplanet transits at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. With the help of funding from JPL, we are moving NESSI to its new home on the Hale telescope in early 2018. Salient features of the New NESSI include a 6.5 arc minute field-of-view, low (R~250) or moderate (R~1100) spectral resolutions across J, H and/or K bands, the ability to stare at transits with high frame-rates, and finally a suite of on-board filters for imaging applications. We present the new design of NESSI, lessons learned in the refurbishment process, as well as an update for next steps in the process.