29 July 2016 Ground-based testing and demonstrations of starshades
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Abstract
The direct detection and characterization of an Earth-like exoplanet is of the highest scientific priority and a leading technology that will enable such discovery is the starshade external occulter. We report on the latest results in ground-based efforts for demonstrating and advancing the technology of starshades. Using the McMath- Pierce Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, we are able to track stars as they move across the night sky and stabilize a beam of starlight behind a starshade. This has allowed us to conduct the first astronomical observations achieving high-contrast with starshades. In our latest efforts, we have extended the separation between the starshade and telescope to reach an inner working angle of 10 arcseconds at a flight-like Fresnel number and resolution. In this report, we detail the development of a closed-loop feedback system to further stabilize the beam at the extended baseline and provide results on the contrast achieved. We conclude by laying out future work to design a dedicated siderostat-starshade facility for future testing of and observations with starshades. Our main result: we achieved a broadband contrast ratio of 3:2 x 10-5 at 15 arcseconds IWA, while at a flight-like Fresnel number and resolution.
© (2016) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Anthony Harness, Anthony Harness, Steve Warwick, Steve Warwick, Ann Shipley, Ann Shipley, Webster Cash, Webster Cash, "Ground-based testing and demonstrations of starshades", Proc. SPIE 9904, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave, 99043I (29 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231916; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2231916
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