Commissioning and performance results of the WFIRST/PISCES integral field spectrograph [IMA]

The Prototype Imaging Spectrograph for Coronagraphic Exoplanet Studies (PISCES) is a high contrast integral field spectrograph (IFS) whose design was driven by WFIRST coronagraph instrument requirements. We present commissioning and operational results using PISCES as a camera on the High Contrast Imaging Testbed at JPL. PISCES has demonstrated ability to achieve high contrast spectral retrieval with flight-like data reduction and analysis techniques.

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P. Saxena, M. Rizzo, C. Prada, et. al.
Wed, 26 Jul 17

Comments: Author’s copy – Proceedings of SPIE Volume 10400. Citation to SPIE proceedings volume will be added when available

Determination of the Equivalence Principle violation signal for the MICROSCOPE space mission: optimization of the signal processing [IMA]

The MICROSCOPE space mission aims at testing the Equivalence Principle (EP) with an accuracy of $10^{-15}$. The test is based on the precise measurement delivered by a differential electrostatic accelerometer on-board a drag-free microsatellite which includes two cylindrical test masses submitted to the same gravitational field and made of different materials. The experiment consists in testing the equality of the electrostatic acceleration applied to the masses to maintain them relatively motionless at a well-known frequency. This high precision experiment is compatible with only very little perturbations. However, aliasing arises from the finite time span of the measurement, and is amplified by measurement losses. These effects perturb the measurement analysis. Numerical simulations have been run to estimate the contribution of a perturbation at any frequency on the EP violation frequency and to test its compatibility with the mission specifications. Moreover, different data analysis procedures have been considered to select the one minimizing these effects taking into account the uncertainty about the frequencies of the implicated signals.

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E. Hardy, A. Levy, G. Metris, et. al.
Wed, 26 Jul 17

Comments: 10 pages, 5 figures, 2 tables, publication in Space Science Reviews

Disproval of the validated planets K2-78b, K2-82b, and K2-92b [IMA]

Transiting super-Earths orbiting bright stars in short orbital periods are interesting targets for the study of planetary atmospheres. While selecting super-Earths suitable for further characterization from the ground among a list of confirmed and validated exoplanets detected by K2, we found some suspicious cases that led to us re-assessing the nature of the detected transiting signal. We did a photometric analysis of the K2 light curves and centroid motions of the photometric barycenters. Our study shows that the validated planets K2-78b, K2-82b, and K2-92b are actually not planets but background eclipsing binaries. The eclipsing binaries are inside the Kepler photometric aperture, but outside the ground-based high resolution images used for validation. We advise extreme care on the validation of candidate planets discovered by space missions. It is important that all the assumptions in the validation process are carefully checked. An independent confirmation is mandatory in order to avoid wasting valuable resources on further characterization of non-existent targets.

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J. Cabrera, S. Barros, D. Armstrong, et. al.
Wed, 26 Jul 17

Comments: accepted for publication in A&A

New 50-m-class single-dish telescope: Large Submillimeter Telescope (LST) [IMA]

We report on a plan to construct a 50-m-class single-dish telescope, the Large Submillimeter Telescope (LST). The conceptual design and key science behind the LST are presented, together with its tentative specifications. This telescope is optimized for wide-area imaging and spectroscopic surveys in the 70–420 GHz frequency range, which spans the main atmospheric windows at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths for good observation sites such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) site in Chile. We also target observations at higher frequencies of up to 1 THz, using an inner high-precision surface. Active surface control is required in order to correct gravitational and thermal deformations of the surface, and will be useful for correction of the wind-load deformation. The LST will facilitate new discovery spaces such as wide-field imaging with both continuum and spectral lines, along with new developments for time-domain science. Through exploitation of its synergy with ALMA and other telescopes, the LST will contribute to research on a wide range of topics in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, e.g., astrochemistry, star formation in our Galaxy and galaxies, the evolution of galaxy clusters via the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, the search for transients such as $\gamma$-ray burst reverse shocks produced during the epoch of re-ionization, electromagnetic follow up of detected gravitational wave sources, and examination of general relativity in the vicinity of super massive black holes via submillimeter very-long-baseline interferometry.

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R. Kawabe, K. Kohno, Y. Tamura, et. al.
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 12 pages, 8 figures, 3 tables, SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation, Edinburgh (26 June – 1 July, 2016). A pdf with higher resolution figures is available at this https URL

Unlocking Sensitivity for Visibility-based Estimators of the 21 cm Reionization Power Spectrum [IMA]

Radio interferometers designed to measure the cosmological 21 cm power spectrum require high sensitivity. Several modern low-frequency interferometers feature drift-scan antennas placed on a regular grid to maximize the number of instantaneously coherent (redundant) measurements. However, even for such maximum-redundancy arrays, significant sensitivity comes through partial coherence between baselines. Current visibility-based power spectrum pipelines, though shown to ease control of systematics, lack the ability to make use of this partial redundancy. We introduce a method to leverage partial redundancy in such power spectrum pipelines for drift-scan arrays. Our method cross-multiplies baseline pairs at a time lag and quantifies the sensitivity contributions of each pair of baselines. Using the configurations and beams of the 128-element Donald C. Backer Precision Array for Probing the Epoch of Reionization (PAPER-128) and staged deployments of the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA), we illustrate how our method applies to different arrays and predict the sensitivity improvements associated with pairing partially coherent baselines. As the number of antennas increases, we find partial redundancy to be of increasing importance in unlocking the full sensitivity of upcoming arrays.

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Y. Zhang, A. Liu and A. Parsons
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 15 pages, 10 figures

Intrapixel effects of CCD and CMOS detectors [IMA]

Intrapixel nonuniformity is known to exist in CCD and CMOS image sensors, though the effects in backside illuminated (BSI) CCDs are too small to be a concern for most astronomical observations. However, projects like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope require precise knowledge of the detector characteristics, and intrapixel effects may need more attention. By scanning CCD and CMOS cameras with a small light spot (unresolved by the optics), we find in the images that the spot’s flux, centroid displacement, and ellipticity vary periodically on the pixel scale in most cases. The amplitude of variation depends on not only the detector but also how well the spot is sampled by the pixels. With a spot radius of 2 pixels (encircling 80% energy) as measured, the flux and the ellipticity extracted from the BSI CCD camera vary by 0.2-0.3% (rms) and 0.005 (rms), respectively, while the deviation of the centroid position (rms ~ 0.01 pixel) is not correlated with the pixels. The effects are more pronounced for the BSI CMOS camera and even worse for the frontside illuminated CMOS camera. The results suggest that a closer examination of the intrapixel effects is needed for precision astronomy.

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H. Zhan, X. Zhang and L. Cao
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 9 pages, 6 figures, PACCD2016

Validation of the in-flight calibration procedures for the MICROSCOPE space mission [IMA]

The MICROSCOPE space mission aims to test the Equivalence Principle with an accuracy of $10^{-15}$. The drag-free micro-satellite will orbit around the Earth and embark a differential electrostatic accelerometer including two cylindrical test masses submitted to the same gravitational field and made of different materials. The experience consists in testing the equality of the electrostatic acceleration applied to the masses to maintain them relatively motionless. The accuracy of the measurements exploited for the test of the Equivalence Principle is limited by our a priori knowledge of several physical parameters of the instrument. These parameters are partially estimated on-ground, but with an insufficient accuracy, and an in-orbit calibration is therefore required to correct the measurements. The calibration procedures have been defined and their analytical performances have been evaluated. In addition, a simulator software including the dynamics model of the instrument, the satellite drag-free system and the perturbing environment has been developed to numerically validate the analytical results. After an overall presentation of the MICROSCOPE mission, this paper will describe the calibration procedures and focus on the simulator. Such an in-flight calibration is mandatory for similar space missions taking advantage of a drag-free system.

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E. Hardy, A. Levy, M. Rodrigues, et. al.
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 29 pages, 7 figures, 3 tables, publication in Advances in Space Research