In November 2000 following a national competition, NASA selected a science
team for the Space Interferometry Mission. The team includes the Principal
Investigators of ten key science projects and five mission scientists. The
SIM Science Team currently drives the science of the SIM mission.
In 2005, the SIM project will announce an additional General Observer
program. The program will be designed to ensure the broadest possible participation
of the astronomical community.
As an instrument of unprecedented sensitivity, SIM will provide
the science team members with a new window on the universe through which
they will investigate a wide range of topics within and beyond our Milky
Way galaxy. These include:
- Searches for low-mass planets and solar systems similar to our own. SIM will be able to detect and characterize planets down to a few Earth masses.
- Calibration of the cosmic distance scale by determining the distance to important "signposts" in our galaxy
SIM's precision will produce measurements several hundred times more accurate
than what is possible today. This will allow for the creation of a much-improved
"road map" of the Milky Way.
- Fundamental stellar astrophysics
Combining SIM's precise distances with other data will help astronomers
understand what makes stars shine and how the elements that constitute the
building blocks of life have formed.
The first interferometer in space
Interferometry Mission, SIM, is the first space project designed to use interferometry
to measure the positions of stars. It will do so to a degree of accuracy
unprecedented by earlier groundbased or space-based measurements. During
the course of its five-year mission, SIM, operating from 450 - 900 nm, will
complete a survey of the whole sky, using interferometric techniques to tie
the optical reference frame it defines firmly to the radio reference frame
SIM will survey thousands of stars for planets. The stellar components
all along the main sequence of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram will be measured
to extreme accuracy, permitting this workhorse of stellar evolution to be
better tied to the physics of stellar interiors. The stellar mass function,
including the effects of metallicity, will be better understood.
Exotic objects, including neutron stars, black holes, and "dark
matter" candidates will come into sharper focus. SIM observations will test
the predictions of the behavior of stars in gravitationally complex systems
including globular clusters and in galaxies.
Observations by SIM will extend the "bootstraps" of the fundamental
distance scale to nearby galaxies, instead of it staying limited to our local
spiral arm. Ultimately, SIM's observations will bear on our understanding
of quasars and the distant universe and on the cosmological theories of the
origin of the universe.
Whitepaper: "SIM PlanetQuest: A Mission for Astrophysics and Planet-Finding" (PDF)
Science with the Space Interferometry Mission (PDF)
SIM Science Investigations