28 August 2014 Measurements of high-contrast starshade performance
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Abstract
The external starshade is a prospective method for the direct detection and spectral characterization of terrestrial planets around other stars, a key goal identified in ASTRO2010. As part of an ongoing campaign to validate the starlight-suppression performance of the starshade, we present our first results from our most recent desert test campaign, completed June 2, 2014. Our preliminary contrast measurement is ~1x10-8, consistent with our previous result for the same 60 cm starshade. These data were collected with a 50% spectral bandpass, using a white-light LED as an incoherent light source, in a challenging outdoor test environment. Additional analysis may improve the calculated contrast and/or provide additional improvements to our test configuration, which is currently limited by a halo around the starshade, presumably caused by dust scatter in the atmosphere. The spectral coverage is limited only by the optics and detector in our test setup, not by the starshade itself. Our experimental setup is designed to provide starshade to telescope separation and telescope aperture size that are scaled as closely as possible to the canonical flight system. In this paper we describe key improvements to our test configuration and our latest results with the Hypergaussian starshade. Plans for the next phase of ground testing under a 2013 NASA TDEM award are discussed.
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Tiffany Glassman, Suzanne Casement, Steve Warwick, Megan Novicki, "Measurements of high-contrast starshade performance", Proc. SPIE 9143, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave, 91432O (28 August 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2054680; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2054680
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