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Advances in Space Research
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 43  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 181 - 186

An AO-free coronagraph experiment in vacuum with a binary-shaped pupil mask

K. Haze, K. Enya, L. Abe, S. Tanaka, T. Nakagawa, T. Sato, T. Wakayama and T. Yamamuro    

Abstract: We present our first results from laboratory experiments on a binary-shaped checkerboard mask coronagraph that was fitted inside a vacuum chamber for the development of skills to the direct observation of extra-solar planets. The aim of this work was to utilize a vacuum chamber for our coronagraph experiments in order to achieve an environment with higher thermal stability and which is free from air turbulence. We also aimed to evaluate and improve the performance of such a system consisting of a vacuum chamber with a coronagraph set inside the chamber. Both the raw contrast and the contrast after point spread function (PSF) subtraction are evaluated. We sited the vacuum chamber in a clean room, and we installed an optical fiber coupled to a visible He–Ne laser, appropriate coronagraph optics, a temperature sensor and heaters in the chamber. This provided a vacuum environment and a temperature-controlled environment with a visible light source, and was shown to improve the stability of the coronagraph. A contrast of 1.7x10-7 was achieved for the raw coronagraphic images by analyzing the areal mean of all of the observed dark regions. A contrast of 7.3x10-9 was achieved for the PSF subtraction by areal variance (1σ) of all of the observed dark regions. Speckles were a major limiting factor throughout the dark regions of both the raw images and the PSF subtracted images. The application of PSF subtraction for the Space Infrared telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA) and for other platforms is discussed.

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