29 July 2016 Measurements of high-contrast starshade performance in the field
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The external starshade is a method for the direct detection and spectral characterization of terrestrial planets around other stars, a key goal identified in ASTRO2010. In an effort to validate the starlight-suppression performance of the starshade, we have measured contrast better than 1×10-9 using 60 cm starshades at points just beyond the starshade tips. These measurements were made over a 50% spectral bandpass, using an incoherent light source (a white LED), and in challenging outdoor test environments. Our experimental setup is designed to provide starshade to telescope separation and telescope aperture size that are scaled as closely as possible to the flight system. The measurements confirm not only the overall starlight-suppression capability of the starshade concept but also the robustness of the setup to optical disturbances such as atmospheric effects at the test site. The spectral coverage is limited only by the optics and detectors in our test setup, not by the starshade itself. Here we describe our latest results as well as detailed comparisons of the measured results to model predictions. Plans and status of the next phase of ground testing are also discussed.
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Daniel Smith, Daniel Smith, Steven Warwick, Steven Warwick, Tiffany M. Glassman, Tiffany M. Glassman, Megan C. Novicki, Megan C. Novicki, Michael C. Richards, Michael C. Richards, Anthony Harness, Anthony Harness, Keith D. Patterson, Keith D. Patterson, "Measurements of high-contrast starshade performance in the field", Proc. SPIE 9904, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave, 99043K (29 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2232841; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2232841

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