AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 153 Space Missions: Exoplanets, Swift/UVOT and Suzaku
Oral, Wednesday, 10:00-11:30am, January 11, 2006, Balcony B

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[153.04] The Visible Nulling Coronagraph-- Architecture Definition and Technology Development

B.M. Levine, M. Shao, J. K. Wallace, D. T. Liu, E. Schmidtlin, S. Rao, E. Serabyn, B. Mennesson, J. J. Green, F. Aguyao, S. F. Fregoso (JPL/Caltech), B. F. Lane (Kavli Center for Space Research), R. Samuele (Northop-Grumman Space Technology Corporation), C. Tuttle (Lockheed-Martin Corporation)

Abstract: This paper describes the advantages of visible direct detection and spectroscopy of Earth-like extrasolar planets using a nulling coronagraph instrument behind a single aperture space telescope. Our concept synthesizes a nulling interferometer by shearing the telescope pupil into multiple beams, and recombining them with appropriate pi-phase shifts. The resultant produces a deep null on-axis attenuating the starlight while simultaneously transmitting the off-axis planet light. Our nulling configuration includes methods to mitigate stellar leakage, such as spatial filtering by a coherent array of single mode fibers, and post-starlight suppression wavefront sensing and control. With diffraction limited telescope optics and similar quality components in the optical train (lambda/20), suppression of the starlight to 10-10 is readily achievable. We describe key features of the architecture and analysis, present latest results of laboratory measurements demonstrating achievable null depth and component development, and discuss future key technical milestones.

This work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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