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.
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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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