28 August 1998 Exploration of the environments of nearby stars with the NICMOS coronagraph: instrumental performance considerations
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Abstract
The Near IR Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS), installed into the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in February 1997, incorporates a coronagraphic imaging capability. The coronagraph is comprised of two optical elements. The camera 2 field divider mirror, upon which the HST f/24 input beam is imaged, includes a 170 micrometers diameter hole which contains approximately 93 percent of the encircled energy from a stellar Point Spread Function (PSF) at a wavelength of 1.6 micrometers . The coronagraphic hole lowers both the diffracted energy in the surrounding region by reducing the high spatial frequency components of the occulted core of the PSF< and down stream scattering. The geometrical radius of this occulting spot, when re-imaged through the camera 2 f/45 optics, is approximately 4 pixels at the detector focal plane. An oversized cold pupil-plane mask, with radial structures co-aligned with the HST secondary mirror spider, acts over the whole 19.1 inch by 19.2 field to further reduce the diffracted energy in the direction of the spider vanes. The absolute performance levels of the coronagraph were ascertained during the servicing mission observatory verification program. Using a differential imaging strategy we expect to achieve statistically significant detectors of sub-stellar companions at 1.6 micrometers with a (Delta) H of approximately 10 and separations as close as 0.5 inch. The NICMOS environments of nearby stars programs is exploiting this capability in systematic surveys of nearby, and young stars searching for brown dwarfs and giant planets, and protoplanetary disks around main-sequence stars.
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Glenn Schneider, Rodger I. Thompson, Bradford A. Smith, Richard J. Terrile, "Exploration of the environments of nearby stars with the NICMOS coronagraph: instrumental performance considerations", Proc. SPIE 3356, Space Telescopes and Instruments V, (28 August 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.324461; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.324461
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