Whipple Mission Design – Fields, Orbit, Schedule
Friday, 19 December 2014
The Whipple mission will conduct a survey to detect small bodies in the large volume of the solar system that begins beyond the orbit of Neptune and extends to thousands of AU. Whipple will sample the diffraction patterns generated by the occultation of the flux from distant stars by the intervening objects. The distance and size of each occulting object is reconstructed from the diffraction pattern. The expected occultation event rate is low, and success depends upon observing fields at low ecliptic latitude that contain sufficient numbers of stars. We map the number density of stars that have the characteristics necessary to permit this parameter extraction. We then discuss the Whipple mission design and orbit, each selected to optimize Whipple’s science return. Whipple will observe thousands of stars simultaneously and perform hundreds of millions of star-hours of observation over its mission life.