285 research outputs found

    Direct Detection of Planets Orbiting Large Angular Diameter Stars: Sensitivity of an Internally Occulting Space-based Coronagraph

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    High-contrast imaging observations of large angular diameter stars enable complementary science questions to be addressed compared to the baseline goals of proposed missions like the Terrestrial Planet Finder-Coronagraph, New World's Observer, and others. Such targets, however, present a practical problem in that finite stellar size results in unwanted starlight reaching the detector, which degrades contrast. In this paper, we quantify the sensitivity, in terms of contrast, of an internally occulting, space-based coronagraph as a function of stellar angular diameter, from unresolved dwarfs to the largest evolved stars. Our calculations show that an assortment of band-limited image masks can accommodate a diverse set of observations to help maximize mission scientific return. We discuss two applications based on the results: the spectro-photometric study of planets already discovered with the radial velocity technique to orbit evolved stars, which we elucidate with the example of Pollux b, and the direct detection of planets orbiting our closest neighbor, α Centauri, whose primary component is on the main sequence but subtends an appreciable angle on the sky. It is recommended that similar trade studies be performed with other promising internal, external, and hybrid occulter designs for comparison, as there is relevance to a host of interesting topics in planetary science and related fields

    'Modal-noise' in single-mode fibers: A cautionary note for high precision radial velocity instruments

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    Exploring the use of single-mode fibers (SMFs) in high precision Doppler spectrometers has become increasingly attractive since the advent of diffraction-limited adaptive optics systems on large-aperture telescopes. Spectrometers fed with these fibers can be made significantly smaller than typical 'seeing-limited' instruments, greatly reducing cost and overall complexity. Importantly, classical mode interference and speckle issues associated with multi-mode fibers, also known as 'modal noise', are mitigated when using SMFs, which also provide perfect radial and azimuthal image scrambling. However, these fibers do support multiple polarization modes, an issue that is generally ignored for larger-core fibers given the large number of propagation modes. Since diffraction gratings used in most high resolution astronomical instruments have dispersive properties that are sensitive to incident polarization changes, any birefringence variations in the fiber can cause variations in the efficiency profile, degrading illumination stability. Here we present a cautionary note outlining how the polarization properties of SMFs can affect the radial velocity measurement precision of high resolution spectrographs. This work is immediately relevant to the rapidly expanding field of diffraction-limited, extreme precision RV spectrographs that are currently being designed and built by a number of groups.Comment: 6 pages, 5 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ Letter