One of the most fundamental and oldest questions of science is Are we alone? Modern astrophysical methods allow us to analyze the chemical composition of atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars – all we need is a large enough telescope to collect the light filtering through the atmospheres.
The science goal of the Nautilus Array is to carry out a comprehensive search for atmospheric biosignatures in about 1,000 transiting earth-sized exoplanets to measure the occurrence rate of life flourishing on other worlds.
We will study the atmospheric composition of about one thousand earth-size habitable zone exoplanets to assess the diversity of their atmospheres. This large sample will allow a detailed statistical study of earth-sized exoplanets and the identification of Earth twins.
Even though over 4,000 exoplanets are known today, no telescope is yet capable of reliably detecting atmospheric biosignatures in any of them. The James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019, may be able to inspect the atmospheres of a couple of earth-sized planets around the smallest stars in the direct vicinity of the Sun. No existing or currently approved telescope is capable of carrying out a systematic search for life or completing a statistical study of the diversity of earth-like planets.
The Nautilus Array will allow the comparison of atmospheric compositions of each planet to the range of atmospheric compositions consistent with abiotic processes. We will identify atmospheres whose composition is not in line with abiotic processes and necessitates the existence of life.
The Nautilus technology will allow orders-of-magnitude increase in sensitivity in exoplanet transit spectroscopy due to the very large collecting area.