9 August 2016 Lenslet array to further suppress starlight for direct exoplanet detection
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Abstract
Direct imaging plays a key role in the detection and characterization of exoplanets orbiting within its host star’s habitable zone. Many innovative ideas for starlight suppression and wavefront control have been proposed and developed over the past decade. However, several technological challenges still lie ahead to achieve the required contrast, including controlling the observatory pointing performance, fabricating occulting masks with tight optical tolerances, developing wavefront control algorithms, controlling stray light, advancing single photon detecting detectors, and integrated system-level issues. This paper explores how a lenslet array and pinhole mask may be implemented to further suppress uncorrected starlight that leaks through the occulting mask. An external occulter, or star shade, is simulated to demonstrate this concept, although this approach can be implemented for internal coronagraphs as well. We describe how to use simple relay optics to control the scene near the inner working angle and the level of the suppression expected. Furthermore, if the lenslet array is the input to an integral field spectrograph, as planned for the WFIRST mission, the spectral content of the exoplanet atmospheres can be obtained to determine if the observed planet is habitable and ultimately, if it is inhabited.
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Qian Gong, Michael McElwain, Ron Shiri, "Lenslet array to further suppress starlight for direct exoplanet detection", Proc. SPIE 9904, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave, 99043M (9 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231993; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2231993
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