Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Integrated Wavefront Correction and Bias Estimation for the High-Contrast Imaging of Exoplanets
by Riggs, A J Eldorado, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2016, 223; 10120340
Abstract (Summary)

Just over two decades ago the first planet outside our solar system was found, and thousands more have been discovered since. Nearly all these exoplanets were indirectly detected by sensing changes in their host stars' light. However, exoplanets must be directly imaged to determine their atmospheric compositions and the orbital parameters unavailable from only indirect detections. The main challenge of direct imaging is to observe stellar companions much fainter than the star and at small angular separations. Coronagraphy is one method of suppressing stellar diffraction to provide high star-to-planet contrast, but coronagraphs are extremely sensitive to quasi-static aberrations in the optical system. Active correction of the stellar wavefront is performed with deformable mirrors to recover high-contrast regions in the image. Estimation and control of the stellar electric field is performed iteratively in the camera's focal plane to avoid non-common path aberrations arising from a separate pupil sensor. Estimation can thus be quite time consuming because it requires several high-contrast intensity images per correction iteration.

This thesis focuses on efficient focal plane wavefront correction (FPWC) for coronagraphy. Time is a precious commodity for a space telescope, so there is a strong incentive to reduce the total exposure time required for focal plane wavefront estimation. Much of our work emphasizes faster, more robust estimation via Kalman filtering, which optimally combines prior data with new measurements. The other main contribution of this thesis is a paradigm shift in the use of estimation images. Time for FPWC has generally been considered to be lost overhead, but we demonstrate that estimation images can be used for the detection and characterization of exoplanets and disks. These science targets are incoherent with their host stars, so we developed and implemented an iterated extended Kalman filter (IEKF) for simultaneous estimation of the stellar electric field and the incoherent signal. From simulations and testbed experiments, we report the increased FPWC speed enabled by Kalman filtering and the use of the IEKF for exoplanet detection during FPWC. We discuss the relevance and future directions of this work for planned or proposed coronagraph missions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kasdin, N Jeremy
Commitee: Littman, Michael G., Vanderbei, Robert J.
School: Princeton University
Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-B 77/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Aerospace engineering, Astrophysics, Optics
Keywords: Deformable mirror, Detection, Exoplanets, Imaging, Kalman filter, Wavefront correction
Publication Number: 10120340
ISBN: 9781339815220
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