Volume 646, February 2021
|Number of page(s)||16|
|Published online||22 February 2021|
The polarization-encoded self-coherent camera
Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Accepted: 15 December 2020
Context. The exploration of circumstellar environments by means of direct imaging to search for Earth-like exoplanets is one of the challenges of modern astronomy. One of the current limitations are evolving non-common path aberrations (NCPA) that originate from optics downstream of the main wavefront sensor. Measuring these NCPA with the science camera during observations is the preferred solution for minimizing the non-common path and maximizing the science duty cycle. The self-coherent camera (SCC) is an integrated coronagraph and focal-plane wavefront sensor that generates wavefront information-encoding Fizeau fringes in the focal plane by adding a reference hole (RH) in the Lyot stop. However, the RH is located at least 1.5 pupil diameters away from the pupil center, which requires the system to have large optic sizes and results in low photon fluxes in the RH.
Aims. Here, we aim to show that by featuring a polarizer in the RH and adding a polarizing beamsplitter downstream of the Lyot stop, the RH can be placed right next to the pupil. This greatly increases the photon flux in the RH and relaxes the requirements on the optics size due to a smaller beam footprint. We refer to this new variant of the SCC as the polarization-encoded self-coherent camera (PESCC).
Methods. We study the performance of the PESCC analytically and numerically, and compare it, where relevant, to the SCC. We look into the specific noise sources that are relevant for the PESCC and quantify their effect on wavefront sensing and control (WFSC).
Results. We show analytically that the PESCC relaxes the requirements on the focal-plane sampling and spectral resolution with respect to the SCC by a factor of 2 and 3.5, respectively. Furthermore, we find via our numerical simulations that the PESCC has effectively access to ∼16 times more photons, which improves the sensitivity of the wavefront sensing by a factor of ∼4. We identify the need for the parameters related to the instrumental polarization and differential aberrations between the beams to be tightly controlled – otherwise, they limit the instrument’s performance. We also show that without additional measurements, the RH point-spread function (PSF) can be calibrated using PESCC images, enabling coherent differential imaging (CDI) as a contrast-enhancing post-processing technique for every observation. In idealized simulations (clear aperture, charge two vortex coronagraph, perfect DM, no noise sources other than phase and amplitude aberrations) and in circumstances similar to those of space-based systems, we show that WFSC combined with CDI can achieve a 1σ raw contrast of ∼3 × 10−11 − 8 × 10−11 between 1 and 18 λ/D.
Conclusions. The PESCC is a powerful, new focal-plane wavefront sensor that can be relatively easily integrated into existing ground-based and future space-based high-contrast imaging instruments.
Key words: instrumentation: adaptive optics / instrumentation: high angular resolution
© ESO 2021
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