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[en] The Apodized Pupil Lyot Coronagraph (APLC) is a diffraction suppression system installed in the recently deployed instruments Palomar/P1640, Gemini/GPI, and VLT/SPHERE to allow direct imaging and spectroscopy of circumstellar environments. Using a prolate apodization, the current implementations offer raw contrasts down to 10–7 at 0.2 arcsec from a star over a wide bandpass (20%), in the presence of central obstruction and struts, enabling the study of young or massive gaseous planets. Observations of older or lighter companions at smaller separations would require improvements in terms of the inner working angle (IWA) and contrast, but the methods originally used for these designs were not able to fully explore the parameter space. We propose a novel approach to improve the APLC performance. Our method relies on the linear properties of the coronagraphic electric field with the apodization at any wavelength to develop numerical solutions producing coronagraphic star images with high-contrast region in broadband light. We explore the parameter space by considering different aperture geometries, contrast levels, dark-zone sizes, bandpasses, and focal plane mask sizes. We present an application of these solutions to the case of Gemini/GPI with a design delivering a 10–8 raw contrast at 0.19 arcsec and offering a significantly reduced sensitivity to low-order aberrations compared to the current implementation. Optimal solutions have also been found to reach 10–10 contrast in broadband light regardless of the aperture shape, with effective IWA in the 2-3.5 λ/D range, therefore making the APLC a suitable option for the future exoplanet direct imagers on the ground or in space
[en] The direct detection of photons emitted or reflected by extrasolar planets, spatially resolved from their parent star, is a major frontier in the study of other solar systems. Direct detection will provide statistical information on planets in 5-50 AU orbits, inaccessible to current Doppler searches, and allow spectral characterization of radius, temperature, surface gravity, and perhaps composition. Achieving this will require new dedicated high-contrast instruments. One such system under construction is the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI.) This combines a high-order/high-speed adaptive optics system to control wavefront errors from the Earth's atmosphere, an advanced coronagraph to block diffraction, ultrasmooth optics, a precision infrared interferometer to measure and correct systematic errors, and a integral field spectrograph/polarimeter to image and characterize target planetary systems. We predict that GPI will be able to detect planets with brightness less than 10-7 of their parent star, sufficient to observe warm self-luminous planets around a large population of targets
[en] The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is an extreme AO coronagraphic integral field unit YJHK spectrograph destined for first light on the 8m Gemini South telescope in 2011. GPI fields a 1500 channel AO system feeding an apodized pupil Lyot coronagraph, and a nIR non-common-path slow wavefront sensor. It targets detection and characterizion of relatively young (<2GYr), self luminous planets up to 10 million times as faint as their primary star. We present the coronagraph subsystem's in-lab performance, and describe the studies required to specify and fabricate the coronagraph. Coronagraphic pupil apodization is implemented with metallic half-tone screens on glass, and the focal plane occulters are deep reactive ion etched holes in optically polished silicon mirrors. Our JH testbed achieves H-band contrast below a million at separations above 5 resolution elements, without using an AO system. We present an overview of the coronagraphic masks and our testbed coronagraphic data. We also demonstrate the performance of an astrometric and photometric grid that enables coronagraphic astrometry relative to the primary star in every exposure, a proven technique that has yielded on-sky precision of the order of a milliarsecond.
[en] We have spatially resolved five debris disks (HD 30447, HD 35841, HD 141943, HD 191089, and HD 202917) for the first time in near-infrared scattered light by reanalyzing archival Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/NICMOS coronagraphic images obtained between 1999 and 2006. One of these disks (HD 202917) was previously resolved at visible wavelengths using the HST/Advanced Camera for Surveys. To obtain these new disk images, we performed advanced point-spread function subtraction based on the Karhunen-Loève Image Projection algorithm on recently reprocessed NICMOS data with improved detector artifact removal (Legacy Archive PSF Library And Circumstellar Environments (LAPLACE) Legacy program). Three of the disks (HD 30447, HD 35841, and HD 141943) appear edge-on, while the other two (HD 191089 and HD 202917) appear inclined. The inclined disks have been sculpted into rings; in particular, the disk around HD 202917 exhibits strong asymmetries. All five host stars are young (8-40 Myr), nearby (40-100 pc) F and G stars, and one (HD 141943) is a close analog to the young Sun during the epoch of terrestrial planet formation. Our discoveries increase the number of debris disks resolved in scattered light from 19 to 23 (a 21% increase). Given their youth, proximity, and brightness (V = 7.2-8.5), these targets are excellent candidates for follow-up investigations of planet formation at visible wavelengths using the HST/Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph coronagraph, at near-infrared wavelengths with the Gemini Planet Imager and Very Large Telescope/SPHERE, and at thermal infrared wavelengths with the James Webb Space Telescope NIRCam and MIRI coronagraphs
[en] We present an analysis of the orbital motion of the four substellar objects orbiting HR 8799. Our study relies on the published astrometric history of this system augmented with an epoch obtained with the Project 1640 coronagraph with an integral field spectrograph (IFS) installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. We first focus on the intricacies associated with astrometric estimation using the combination of an extreme adaptive optics system (PALM-3000), a coronagraph, and an IFS. We introduce two new algorithms. The first one retrieves the stellar focal plane position when the star is occulted by a coronagraphic stop. The second one yields precise astrometric and spectrophotometric estimates of faint point sources even when they are initially buried in the speckle noise. The second part of our paper is devoted to studying orbital motion in this system. In order to complement the orbital architectures discussed in the literature, we determine an ensemble of likely Keplerian orbits for HR 8799bcde, using a Bayesian analysis with maximally vague priors regarding the overall configuration of the system. Although the astrometric history is currently too scarce to formally rule out coplanarity, HR 8799d appears to be misaligned with respect to the most likely planes of HR 8799bce orbits. This misalignment is sufficient to question the strictly coplanar assumption made by various authors when identifying a Laplace resonance as a potential architecture. Finally, we establish a high likelihood that HR 8799de have dynamical masses below , using a loose dynamical survival argument based on geometric close encounters. We illustrate how future dynamical analyses will further constrain dynamical masses in the entire system.