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Optical Engineering

Space telescope sensitivity and controls for exoplanet imaging
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Paper Abstract

We address design considerations and outline requirements for space telescopes with capabilities for high contrast imaging of exoplanets. The approach taken is to identify the span of potentially detectable Earth-sized terrestrial planets in the habitable zone of the nearest stars within 30 parsecs and estimate their inner working angles, flux ratios, SNR, sensitivities, wavefront error requirements, and sensing and control times parametrically versus aperture size. We consider 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16-m diameter telescope apertures. The achievable science, range of telescope architectures, and the coronagraphic approach are all active areas of research and are all subject to change in a rapidly evolving field. Thus presented is a snapshot of our current understanding with the goal of limiting the choices to those that appear currently technically feasible. We describe the top-level metrics of inner working angle, contrast and photometric throughput and explore how they are related to the range of target stars. A critical point is that for each telescope architecture and coronagraphic choice, the telescope stability requirements have differing impacts on the design for open- versus closed-loop sensing and control.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 February 2012
PDF: 16 pages
Opt. Eng. 51(1) 011002 doi: 10.1117/1.OE.51.1.011002
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 51, Issue 1
Show Author Affiliations
Richard G. Lyon, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Mark Clampin, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)


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