A reflective Gaussian coronagraph for extreme adaptive optics: Laboratory performance

Ryeojin Park, Laird M. Close, Nick Siegler, Eric L. Nielsen, Thomas Stalcup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We report laboratory results of a coronagraphic test bench to assess the intensity reduction differences between a "Gaussian" tapered focal plane coronagraphic mask and a classical hard-edged "top hat" function mask at extreme adaptive optics (ExAO) Strehl ratios of ∼94%. However, unlike a traditional coronagraph design, we insert a reflective focal plane mask at 45° to the optical axis. We also use an intermediate secondary mask (mask 2) before a final image in order to block additional mask-edge-diffracted light. The test bench simulates the optical train of ground-based telescopes (in particular, the 8.1 m Gemini North Telescope). It includes one spider vane, different mask radii (r = 1.9λ/D, 3.7λ/D, and 7.4λ/D), and two types of reflective focal plane masks (hard-edged top-hat and Gaussian tapered profiles). In order to investigate the relative performance of these competing coronagraphic designs with regard to extrasolar planet detection sensitivity, we utilize the simulation of realistic extrasolar planet populations (Nielsen et al.). With an appropriate translation of our laboratory results to expected telescope performance, a Gaussian tapered mask radius of 3.7λ/D with an additional mask (mask 2) performs best (highest planet detection sensitivity). For a full survey with this optimal design, the simulation predicts that ∼30% more planets would be detected than with a top-hat function mask of similar size with mask 2. Using the best design, the point contrast ratio between the stellar point-spread function (PSF) peak and the coronagraphic PSF at 10λ/D (0″.4 in the H band if D = 8.1 m) is ∼10 times higher than a classical Lyot top-hat coronagraph. Hence, we find that a Gaussian apodized mask with an additional blocking mask is superior (∼10 times higher contrast) to the use of a classical Lyot coronagraph for ExAO-like Strehl ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1591-1603
Number of pages13
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number849
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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