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15 September 2011 Laboratory demonstration of high-contrast imaging at inner working angles 2 λ/D and better
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Coronagraph technology is advancing and promises to enable direct imaging and spectral characterization of extrasolar Earth-like planets in the 2020 decade with a telescope as small as 1.5m. A small Explorer-sized telescope can also be launched in the 2010 decade capable of seeing debris disks as dim as tens of zodis and potentially a few large planets. The Phase Induced Amplitude Apodization (PIAA) coronagraph makes such aggressive performance possible, providing high throughput and high contrast close to the diffraction limit. We report on the latest results from a testbed at NASA Ames that is focused on developing and testing the PIAA coronagraph. This laboratory facility was built in 2008 and is designed to be flexible, operated in an actively thermally stabilized air environment, and to complement collaborative efforts at NASA JPL's High Contrast Imaging Testbed. For our wavefront control we are using small Micro-Electro- Mechanical-System deformable mirrors (MEMS DMs), which promise to reduce the size of the beam and overall instrument, a consideration that becomes very important for small telescopes. We describe our lab progress and results, which include (as of August 2011): the demonstration of 1.9x10-8 average raw contrast in a dark zone from 2.0 - 3.4 λ/D and of 1.2x10-6 contrast from 1.5-2.0 λ/D (in monochromatic light); the testing of the next-generation reflective PIAA mirror set built by Tinsley and designed for broadband; and finally, discuss our most important past limiting factors as well as expected future ones.
© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Ruslan Belikov, Eugene Pluzhnik, Fred C. Witteborn, Thomas P. Greene, Dana H. Lynch, Peter T. Zell, and Olivier Guyon "Laboratory demonstration of high-contrast imaging at inner working angles 2 λ/D and better", Proc. SPIE 8151, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets V, 815102 (15 September 2011);


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