To find potential habitable planets we need to discover them, determine their location relative to their parent star, and detect an atmosphere. The first two components have become comparatively easy in recent times, while the later has proven extremely difficult. In regards to the dark energy, the road-block is now a somewhat embarrassingly limited understanding of the very probes used by the Nobel prize winning teams that discovered it in the first place - a specific type of stellar explosion called a Type Ia Supernova (SN Ia). Fortuitously, both of these fundamental problems can be addressed with a wide-field (many square degrees of viewing area), ultraviolet (λ = 200 nm - 300 nm) telescope with a high-cadence camera (frequent regular exposures). We are developing a telescope system for deployment on a long-duration high-altitude balloon platform to provide this key data.
This project has two components: developing the science case for the instrument, defining the mission parameters that are necessary to ensure the science goals are achieved; and, for a student so inclined, physically building the telescope and camera system.