High Contrast Observations of Bright Stars with a Starshade [IMA]


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.

Read this paper on arXiv…

A. Harness, W. Cash and S. Warwick
Wed, 6 Dec 17

Comments: 29 pages, 18 figures. Published in Experimental Astronomy, Exp Astron (2017)