SPHERE/ZIMPOL high resolution polarimetric imager
I. System overview, PSF parameters, coronagraphy, and polarimetry⋆
1 ETH Zurich, Institute for Particle Physics and Astrophysics, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 27, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
2 NOVA Optical Infrared Instrumentation Group at ASTRON, Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4, 7991 PD Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
3 Université Grenoble Alpes, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
4 CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
5 European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Cordova 3107, Casilla 19001 Vitacura, Santiago 19, Chile
6 Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno, Via Patocchi 57, 6605 Locarno Monti, Switzerland
7 Kiepenheuer-Institut für Sonnenphysik, Schneckstr. 6, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
8 Anton Pannekoek Astronomical Institute, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94249 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
9 LESIA, CNRS, Observatoire de Paris, Université Paris Diderot, UPMC, 5 place J. Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
10 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
11 Laboratoire Lagrange, UMR7293, Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Boulevard de l’Observatoire, 06304 Nice, Cedex 4, France
12 INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, 00087 Monte Porzio Catone, Italy
13 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
14 INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
15 Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, CNES, LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille) UMR 7326, 13388 Marseille, France
16 Unidad Mixta International Franco-Chilena de Astronomia, CNRS/INSU UMI 3386 and Departemento de Astronomia, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 36-D, Santiago, Chile
17 European Southern Observatory, Karl Schwarzschild St, 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
18 ONERA, The French Aerospace Lab BP72, 29 avenue de la Division Leclerc, 92322 Châtillon Cedex, France
19 Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, CNRS/ENSL Université Lyon 1, 9 av. Ch. André, 69561 Saint-Genis-Laval, France
20 INAF – Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
21 Geneva Observatory, University of Geneva, Chemin des Mailettes 51, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
Accepted: 3 August 2018
Context. The SPHERE “planet finder” is an extreme adaptive optics (AO) instrument for high resolution and high contrast observations at the Very Large Telescope (VLT). We describe the Zurich Imaging Polarimeter (ZIMPOL), the visual focal plane subsystem of SPHERE, which pushes the limits of current AO systems to shorter wavelengths, higher spatial resolution, and much improved polarimetric performance.
Aims. We present a detailed characterization of SPHERE/ZIMPOL which should be useful for an optimal planning of observations and for improving the data reduction and calibration. We aim to provide new benchmarks for the performance of high contrast instruments, in particular for polarimetric differential imaging.
Methods. We have analyzed SPHERE/ZIMPOL point spread functions (PSFs) and measure the normalized peak surface brightness, the encircled energy, and the full width half maximum (FWHM) for different wavelengths, atmospheric conditions, star brightness, and instrument modes. Coronagraphic images are described and the peak flux attenuation and the off-axis flux transmission are determined. Simultaneous images of the coronagraphic focal plane and the pupil plane are analyzed and the suppression of the diffraction rings by the pupil stop is investigated. We compared the performance at small separation for different coronagraphs with tests for the binary α Hyi with a separation of 92 mas and a contrast of Δm ≈ 6m. For the polarimetric mode we made the instrument calibrations using zero polarization and high polarization standard stars and here we give a recipe for the absolute calibration of polarimetric data. The data show small (< 1 mas) but disturbing differential polarimetric beam shifts, which can be explained as Goos-Hähnchen shifts from the inclined mirrors, and we discuss how to correct this effect. The polarimetric sensitivity is investigated with non-coronagraphic and deep, coronagraphic observations of the dust scattering around the symbiotic Mira variable R Aqr.
Results. SPHERE/ZIMPOL reaches routinely an angular resolution (FWHM) of 22−28 mas, and a normalized peak surface brightness of SB0 − mstar ≈ −6.5m arcsec−2 for the V-, R- and I-band. The AO performance is worse for mediocre ≳1.0″ seeing conditions, faint stars mR ≳ 9m, or in the presence of the “low wind” effect (telescope seeing). The coronagraphs are effective in attenuating the PSF peak by factors of > 100, and the suppression of the diffracted light improves the contrast performance by a factor of approximately two in the separation range 0.06″−0.20″. The polarimetric sensitivity is Δp < 0.01% and the polarization zero point can be calibrated to better than Δp ≈ 0.1%. The contrast limits for differential polarimetric imaging for the 400 s I-band data of R Aqr at a separation of ρ = 0.86″ are for the surface brightness contrast SBpol( ρ)−mstar ≈ 8m arcsec−2 and for the point source contrast mpol( ρ)−mstar ≈ 15m and much lower limits are achievable with deeper observations.
Conclusions. SPHERE/ZIMPOL achieves imaging performances in the visual range with unprecedented characteristics, in particular very high spatial resolution and very high polarimetric contrast. This instrument opens up many new research opportunities for the detailed investigation of circumstellar dust, in scattered and therefore polarized light, for the investigation of faint companions, and for the mapping of circumstellar Hα emission.
Key words: instrumentation: adaptive optics / instrumentation: high angular resolution / instrumentation: polarimeters / instrumentation: detectors / planetary systems / circumstellar matter
© ESO 2018