Phase mask coronagraphy at JPL and Palomar
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
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For the imaging of faint companions, phase mask coronagraphy has the dual advantages of a small inner working angle and high throughput. This paper summarizes our recent work in developing phase masks and in demonstrating their capabilities at JPL. Four-quadrant phase masks have been manufactured at JPL by means of both evaporation and etching, and we have been developing liquid crystal vortex phase masks in partnership with a commercial vendor. Both types of mask have been used with our extreme adaptive optics well-corrected subaperture at Palomar to detect known brown dwarf companions as close as ~ 2.5 λ/D to stars. Moreover, our recent vortex masks perform very well in laboratory tests, with a demonstrated infrared contrast of about 10−6 at 3 λ/D, and contrasts of a few 10−7 with an initial optical wavelength device. The demonstrated performance already meets the needs of ground-based extreme adaptive optics coronagraphy, and further planned improvements are aimed at reaching the 10−10 contrast needed for terrestrial exoplanet detection with a space-based coronagraph.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2011