Proceedings PaperWide-field nulling imager for TPF: the Boeing-SVS hypertelescope concept
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The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission is aimed at providing direct images of Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars and characterizing their atmospheres (low resolution spectroscopy). The BOEING/SVS hypertelescope concept, NRLA (Non-Redundant Linear Array), uses a 35m baseline interferometric rotating array of six 2.3-meter telescopes operating in the infrared (7 to 12 microns) to produce wide field images of exoplanetary systems. The full (u,v) plane coverage of the array offers very good imaging capabilities, which is essential to unambiguously confirm the detection of planets, and also provides an outstanding capability for high resolution/high dynamic range imaging for general astrophysics. Thanks to a novel approach combining pupil densification, phase mask coronagraphy and pupil redilution, this concept combines wide field of view imaging and interferometric nulling of the central star. We first briefly present the techniques used by this concept (phase mask coronagraphy, pupil densification and redilution, aperture synthesis imaging) and demonstrate how they can be used to overcome the limitations commonly encountered by interferometers (low (u,v) plane coverage, small field of view, low dynamical range). A complete computer simulation of the concept has been written and is used to study the performance of the array for exoplanet imaging and spectroscopy. We show that with this concept, detection (S/N=5) of Earth-like planets at 10pc with a 5 microns spectral bandwidth can be achieved in less than an hour (for a 100% quantum efficiency).