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Proceedings Paper

External occulter edge scattering control using metamaterials for exoplanet detection
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Paper Abstract

Direct imaging of earth-like exoplanets in the Habitable Zone of sun-like stars requires image contrast of ~10^10 at angular separations of around a hundred milliarcseconds. One approach for achieving this performance is to fly a starshade at a long distance in front of the telescope, shading the telescope from the direct starlight, but allowing planets around the star to be seen. The starshade is positioned so that sunlight falls on the surface away from the telescope, so the sun does not directly illuminate it. However, sunlight scattered from the starshade edge can enter the telescope, raising the background light level and potentially preventing the starshade from delivering the required contrast. As a result, starshade edge design has been identified as one of the highest priority technology gaps for external occulter missions in the NASAs Exoplanet Exploration Program Technology Plan 2013. To reduce the sunlight edge scatter to an acceptable level, the edge Radius Of Curvature (ROC) should be 1μm or less (commercial razor blades have ROC of a few hundred nanometer). This poses a challenging manufacturing requirement and may make the occulter difficult to handle. In this paper we propose an alternative approach to controlling the edge scattering by applying a flexible metamaterial to the occulter edge. Metamaterials are artificially structured materials, which have been designed to display properties not found in natural materials. Metamaterials can be designed to direct the scatter at planned incident angles away from the space telescope, thereby directly decreasing the contaminating background light. Reduction of the background light translates into shorter integration time to characterize a target planet and therefore improves the efficiency of the observations. As an additional benefit, metamaterials also have potential to produce increased tolerance to edge defects.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 September 2015
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 9605, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VII, 96052D (16 September 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2189004
Show Author Affiliations
Eduardo A. Bendek, NASA Ames Research Ctr. (United States)
Dan Sirbu, NASA Ames Research Ctr. (United States)
Zhaowei Liu, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
Stefan Martin, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Dylan Lu, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9605:
Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets VII
Stuart Shaklan, Editor(s)

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