Optimization of starshades: focal plane versus pupil plane
Laboratoire Lagrange, UMR CNRS 7293, Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis,
Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Accepted: 17 July 2014
We search for the best possible transmission for an external occulter coronagraph that is dedicated to the direct observation of terrestrial exoplanets. We show that better observation conditions are obtained when the flux in the focal plane is minimized in the zone in which the exoplanet is observed, instead of for the total flux received by the telescope. We describe the transmission of the occulter as a sum of basis functions. For each element of the basis, we numerically computed the Fresnel diffraction at the aperture of the telescope and the complex amplitude at its focus. The basis functions are circular disks that are linearly apodized over a few centimeters (truncated cones). We complemented the numerical calculation of the Fresnel diffraction for these functions by a comparison with pure circular disks (cylinder) for which an analytical expression, based on a decomposition in Lommel series, is available. The technique of deriving the optimal transmission for a given spectral bandwidth is a classical regularized quadratic minimization of intensities, but linear optimizations can be used as well. Minimizing the integrated intensity on the aperture of the telescope or for selected regions of the focal plane leads to slightly different transmissions for the occulter. For the focal plane optimization, the resulting residual intensity is concentrated behind the geometrical image of the occulter, in a blind region for the observation of an exoplanet, and the level of background residual starlight becomes very low outside this image. Finally, we provide a tolerance analysis for the alignment of the occulter to the telescope, which also favors the focal plane optimization. This means that telescope offsets of a few decimeters do not strongly reduce the efficiency of the occulter.
Key words: methods: analytical / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2014