In preparation for the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey NASA has commissioned the study four flagship missions spanning to a wide range of observable wavelengths: the Origins Space Telescope (OST, formerly the Far-Infrared Surveyor), Lynx (formerly the X-ray Surveyor), the Large UV/Optical/Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) and the Habitable Exoplanet Imager (HabEx). One of the key scientific objectives of the latter two is the detection and characterization of the earth-like planets around nearby stars using the direct imaging technique (along with a broad range of investigations regarding the architecture of and atmospheric composition exoplanetary systems using this technique). As a consequence dedicated exoplanet instruments are being studied for these mission concepts. This paper discusses the design of the coronagraph instrument for the architecture “A” (15 meters aperture) of LUVOIR. The material presented in this paper is aimed at providing an overview of the LUVOIR coronagraph instrument. It is the result of four months of discussions with various community stakeholders (scientists and technologists) regarding the instrument’s basic parameters followed by meticulous design work by the the GSFC Instrument Design Laboratory team. In the first section we review the main science drivers, presents the overall parameters of the instrument (general architecture and backend instrument) and delve into the details of the currently envisioned coronagraph masks along with a description of the wavefront control architecture. Throughout the manuscript we describe the trades we made during the design process. Because the vocation of this study is to provide a baseline design for the most ambitious earth-like finding instrument that could be possibly launched into the 2030’s, we have designed an complex system privileged that meets the ambitious science goals out team was chartered by the LUVOIR STDT exoplanet Working Group. However in an effort to minimize technological risk we tried to maximize the number of technologies that will be matured by the WFIRST coronagraph instruments.
Despite recent advances in high-contrast imaging techniques, high resolution spectroscopy for characterization of exoplanet atmospheres is still limited by our ability to suppress residual starlight speckles at the planet’s location. We have demonstrated a new concept for speckle nulling by injecting directly imaged planet light into a single-mode fiber, linking a high-contrast adaptively-corrected coronagraph to a high-resolution spectrograph (diffraction-limited or not). The restrictions on the incident electric field that will couple into the single-mode fiber give the adaptive optics system additional degrees of freedom to suppress the speckle noise on top of destructive interference. We are able to achieve a starlight suppression gains that are an order of magnitude better than conventional techniques in broadband light with minimal planet throughput losses.
A milestone in understanding life in the universe is the detection of biosignature gases in the atmospheres of habitable exoplanets. Future mission concepts under study by the 2020 decadal survey, e.g., HabEx and LUVOIR, have the potential of achieving this goal. We investigate the baseline requirements for detecting four molecular species, H2O, O2, CH4, and CO2. These molecules are highly relevant to habitability and life activity on Earth and other planets. Through numerical simulations, we find the minimum requirement for spectral resolution (R) and starlight suppression level (C) for a given exposure time. We consider scenarios in which different molecules are detected. For example, R = 6400 (400) and C = 5 × 10−10 (2 × 10−9 ) are required for HabEx (LUVOIR) to detect O2 and H2O for an exposure time of 400 hours for an Earth analog around a solar-type star at a distance of 5 pc. The full results are given in Table 2. The impact of exo-zodiacal contamination and thermal background is also discussed
The detection of molecular species in the atmospheres of earth-like exoplanets orbiting nearby stars requires an optical system that suppresses starlight and maximizes the sensitivity to the weak planet signals at small angular separations. Achieving sufficient contrast performance on a segmented aperture space telescope is particularly challenging due to unwanted diffraction within the telescope from amplitude and phase discontinuities in the pupil. Apodized vortex coronagraphs are a promising solution that theoretically meet the performance needs for high contrast imaging with future segmented space telescopes. We investigate the sensitivity of apodized vortex coronagraphs to the expected aberrations, including segment co-phasing errors in piston and tip/tilt as well as other low-order and mid-spatial frequency aberrations. Coronagraph designs and their associated telescope requirements are identified for conceptual HabEx and LUVOIR telescope designs.
Coupling a high-contrast imaging instrument to a high-resolution spectrograph has the potential to enable the most detailed characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, including spin measurements and Doppler mapping. The high-contrast imaging system serves as a spatial filter to separate the light from the star and the planet while the high-resolution spectrograph acts as a spectral filter, which differentiates between features in the stellar and planetary spectra. The Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer (KPIC) located downstream from the current W. M. Keck II adaptive optics (AO) system will contain a fiber injection unit (FIU) combining a high-contrast imaging system and a fiber feed to Keck’s high resolution infrared spectrograph NIRSPEC. Resolved thermal emission from known young giant exoplanets will be injected into a single-mode fiber linked to NIRSPEC, thereby allowing the spectral characterization of their atmospheres. Moreover, the resolution of NIRSPEC (R = 37,500) is high enough to enable spin measurements and Doppler imaging of atmospheric weather phenomenon. The module will be integrated and tested at Caltech before being transferred to Keck in 2018.
Vortex and axicon phase masks are introduced to the pupil plane of an imaging system, altering both the point spread function and optical transfer function for monochromatic and broadband coherent and incoherent light. Each phase mask results in the reduction of the maximum irradiance of a localized coherent laser source, while simultaneously allowing for the recovery of the incoherent background scene. We describe the optical system, image processing, and resulting recovered images obtained through this wavefront encoding approach for laser suppression.
For several years, we have been developing vortex phase masks based on sub-wavelength gratings, known as Annular Groove Phase Masks. Etched onto diamond substrates, these AGPMs are currently designed to be used in the thermal infrared (ranging from 3 to 13 μm). Our AGPMs were first installed on VLT/NACO and VLT/VISIR in 2012, followed by LBT/LMIRCam in 2013 and Keck/NIRC2 in 2015. In this paper, we review the development, commissioning, on-sky performance, and early scientific results of these new coronagraphic modes and report on the lessons learned. We conclude with perspectives for future developments and applications.
The direct detection of low-mass planets in the habitable zone of nearby stars is an important science case for future E-ELT instruments such as the mid-infrared imager and spectrograph METIS, which features vortex phase masks and apodizing phase plates (APP) in its baseline design. In this work, we present end-to-end performance simulations, using Fourier propagation, of several METIS coronagraphic modes, including focal-plane vortex phase masks and pupil-plane apodizing phase plates, for the centrally obscured, segmented E-ELT pupil. The atmosphere and the AO contributions are taken into account. Hybrid coronagraphs combining the advantages of vortex phase masks and APPs are considered to improve the METIS coronagraphic performance.
The Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer (KPIC) is a cost-effective upgrade path to the W.M. Keck observatory (WMKO) adaptive optics (AO) system, building on the lessons learned from first and second-generation extreme AO (ExAO) coronagraphs. KPIC will explore new scientific niches in exoplanet science, while maturing critical technologies and systems for future ground-based (TMT, EELT, GMT) and space-based planet imagers (HabEx, LUVOIR). The advent of fast low-noise IR cameras (IR-APD, MKIDS, electron injectors), the rapid maturing of efficient wavefront sensing (WFS) techniques (Pyramid, Zernike), small inner working angle (IWA) coronagraphs (e.g., vortex) and associated low-order wavefront sensors (LOWFS), as well as recent breakthroughs in high contrast high resolution spectroscopy, open new direct exoplanet exploration avenues that are complementary to planet imagers such as VLT-SPHERE and the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). For instance, the search and detailed characterization of planetary systems on solar-system scales around late-type stars, mostly beyond SPHERE and GPI's reaches, can be initiated now at WMKO.
Current state-of-the-art high contrast imaging instruments take advantage of a number of elegant coronagraph designs to suppress starlight and image nearby faint objects, such as exoplanets and circumstellar disks. The ideal performance and complexity of the optical systems depends strongly on the shape of the telescope aperture. Unfortunately, large primary mirrors tend to be segmented and have various obstructions, which limit the performance of most conventional coronagraph designs. We present a new family of vortex coronagraphs with numerically-optimized gray-scale apodizers that provide the sensitivity needed to directly image faint exoplanets with large, segmented aperture telescopes, including the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as well as potential next-generation space telescopes.
The Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM) is a vectorial vortex phase mask. It acts as a half-wave plate with a radial fast axis orientation operating in the mid infrared domain. When placed at the focus of a telescope element provides a continuous helical phase ramp for an on axis sources, which creates the orbital angular momentum. Thanks to that phase, the intensity of the central source is canceled by a down-stream pupil stop, while the off axis sources are not affected. However due to experimental conditions the nulling is hardly perfect. To improve the null, a Mach-Zehnder interferometer containing Dove prisms differently oriented can be proposed to sort out light based on its orbital angular momentum (OAM). Thanks to the differential rotation of the beam, a π phase shift is achieved for the on axis light affected by a non zero OAM. Therefore the contrast between the star and its faint companion is enhanced. Nevertheless, due the Dove prisms birefringence, the performance of the interferometer is relatively poor. To solve this problem, we propose to add a birefringent wave-plate in each arm to compensate this birefringence. In this paper, we will develop the mathematical model of the wave front using the Jones formalism. The performance of the interferometer is at first computed for the simple version without the birefringent plate. Then the effect of the birefringent plate is be mathematically described and the performance is re-computed.
We present methods for optimizing pupil and focal plane optical elements that improve the performance of vortex coronagraphs on telescopes with obstructed or segmented apertures. Phase-only and complex masks are designed for the entrance pupil, focal plane, and the plane of the Lyot stop. Optimal masks are obtained using both analytical and numerical methods. The latter makes use of an iterative error reduction algorithm to calculate "correcting" optics that mitigate unwanted diffraction from aperture obstructions. We analyze the achieved performance in terms of starlight suppression, contrast, off-axis image quality, and chromatic dependence. Manufacturing considerations and sensitivity to aberrations are also discussed. This work provides a path to joint optimization of multiple coronagraph planes to maximize sensitivity to exoplanets and other faint companions.
We experimentally explored the reconstruction of the image of two point sources using a sequence of
random aperture phase masks. The speckled intensity profiles were combined using an improved shift-and-add and
multi-frame blind deconvolution to achieve a near diffraction limited image for broadband light (600-670 nm). Using
a numerical model we also explored various algorithms in the presence of noise and phase aberration.