The vector vortex is a coronagraphic imaging mode of the recently commissioned Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme-Adaptive Optics (SCExAO) platform on the 8-m Subaru Telescope. This multi-purpose high-contrast visible and near-infrared (R- to K-band) instrument is not only intended to serve as a VLT-class “planet-imager” instrument in the Northern hemisphere, but also to operate as a technology demonstration testbed ahead of the ELTs-era, with a particular emphasis on small inner-working angle (IWA) coronagraphic capabilities. The given priority to small-IWA imaging led to the early design choice to incorporate focal-plane phase-mask coronagraphs. In this context, a test H-band vector vortex liquid crystal polymer waveplate was provided to SCExAO, to allow a one-to-one comparison of different small-IWA techniques on the same telescope instrument, before considering further steps. Here we present a detailed overview of the vector vortex coronagraph, from its installation and performances on the SCExAO optical bench, to the on-sky results in the extreme AO regime, as of late 2016/early 2017. To this purpose, we also provide a few recent on-sky imaging examples, notably high-contrast ADI detection of the planetary-mass companion \kappa Andromedae b, with a signal-to-noise ratio above 100 reached in less than 10 mn exposure time.
J. Kuhn, E. Serabyn, J. Lozi, et. al.
Thu, 7 Dec 17
Comments: 25 pages, 8 figures, accepted for publication in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP)