Deformable mirrors, and particularly MEMS, are crucial components for the direct imaging of exoplanets for both ground-based and space-based instruments. Without deformable mirrors, coronagraphs are incapable of reaching contrasts required to image Jupiter-like planets. The system performance is limited by image quality degradation resulting from wavefront error introduced from multiple effects including: atmospheric turbulence, static aberrations in the system, non-common-path aberrations, all of which vary with time. Correcting for these effects requires a deformable mirror with fast response and numerous actuators having moderate stroke. Not only do MEMS devices fulfill this requirement but their compactness permits their application in numerous space- and ground-based instruments, which are often volume- and mass-limited.
In this paper, I will briefly explain how coronagraphs work and their requirements. I then will discuss the
Extreme Adaptive Optics needed to compensate for the introduced wavefront error and how MEMS devices are a good choice to achieve the performance needed to produce the contrasts necessary to detect exoplanets.
As examples, I will discuss a facility instrument for the Gemini Observatory, called the Gemini Planet Imager, that will detect Jupiter-like planets and present recent results from the NASA Ames Coronagraph Experiment laboratory, in the context of a proposed space- based mission called EXCEDE. EXCEDE is planned to focus on protoplanetary disks.