Thursday, May 23, 2013

1305.5143 (M. N'Diaye et al.)

Calibration of quasi-static aberrations in exoplanet direct imaging instruments with a Zernike phase mask sensor    [PDF]

M. N'Diaye, K. Dohlen, T. Fusco, B. Paul
Context. Several exoplanet direct imaging instruments will soon be in operation. They use an extreme adaptive optics (XAO) system to correct the atmospheric turbulence and provide a highly-corrected beam to a near-infrared (IR) coronagraph for starlight suppression. The performance of the coronagraph is however limited by the non-common path aberrations (NCPA) due to the differential wavefront errors existing between the visible XAO sensing path and the near-IR science path, leading to residual speckles in the coronagraphic image. Aims. Several approaches have been developed in the past few years to accurately calibrate the NCPA, correct the quasi-static speckles and allow the observation of exoplanets at least 1e6 fainter than their host star. We here propose an approach based on the Zernike phase-contrast method for the measurements of the NCPA between the optical path seen by the visible XAO wavefront sensor and that seen by the near-IR coronagraph. Methods. This approach uses a focal plane phase mask of size {\lambda}/D, {\lambda} and D denoting the wavelength and the telescope aperture diameter respectively, to measure the quasi-static aberrations in the upstream pupil plane by encoding them into intensity variations in the downstream pupil image. We develop a rigorous formalism, leading to highly accurate measurement of the NCPA, in a quasi-linear way during the observation. Results. For a static phase map of standard deviation 44 nm rms at {\lambda} = 1.625 {\mu}m (0.026 {\lambda}), we estimate a possible reduction of the chromatic NCPA by a factor ranging from 3 to 10 in the presence of AO residuals compared with the expected performance of a typical current-generation system. This would allow a reduction of the level of quasi-static speckles in the detected images by a factor 10 to 100 hence, correspondingly improving the capacity to observe exoplanets.
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