Starshades are a leading technology to enable the direct detection and spectroscopic characterization of Earth-like exoplanets. In an effort to advance starshade technology through system level demonstrations, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope was adapted to enable the suppression of astronomical sources with a starshade. The long baselines achievable with the heliostat provide measurements of starshade performance at a flight-like Fresnel number and resolution, aspects critical to the validation of optical models. The heliostat has provided the opportunity to perform the first astronomical observations with a starshade and has made science accessible in a unique parameter space, high contrast at moderate inner working angles. On-sky images are valuable for developing the experience and tools needed to extract science results from future starshade observations. We report on high contrast observations of nearby stars provided by a starshade. We achieve 5.6e-7 contrast at 30 arcseconds inner working angle on the star Vega and provide new photometric constraints on background stars near Vega.
A. Harness, W. Cash and S. Warwick
Wed, 6 Dec 17
Comments: 29 pages, 18 figures. Published in Experimental Astronomy, Exp Astron (2017)