Exploration of the environments of nearby stars with the NICMOS coronagraph -Instrumental performance considerations

Glenn Schneider, Rodger I. Thompson, Bradford A. Smith, Richard J. Terrile

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS), installed into the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in February 1997, incorporates a coronagraphic imaging capability. The coronagraph is comprised of two optical elements. The camera 2 field divider mirror, upon which the HST f/24 input beam is imaged, includes a 17Oim diameter hole which contains -93% of the encircled energy from a stellar Point Spread Function (PSF) at a wavelength of l.6im. The coronagraphic hole lowers both the diffracted energy in the surrounding region by reducing the high spatial frequency components of the occulted core of the PSF, and down stream scattering. The geometrical radius of this occulting spot, when re-imaged through the camera 2 f145optics, is -4 pixels (or 0.3) at the detector focal plane. An oversized cold pupil-plane mask (maintained at -lOOK), with radial structures co-aligned with the HST secondary mirror spider, acts over the whole 19.1×19.2 field to further reduce the diffracted energy in the direction of the spider vanes. The absolute performance levels of the coronagraph were ascertained during the Servicing Mission Observatory Verification (SMOV) program. Using a differential imaging strategy (by rolling the spacecraft) we expect to achieve statistically significant detections of sub-stellar companions at 1.6jim with a MI of -10 and separations as close as 0.5 (corresponding to 2.5AU at 5pc). The NICMOS Environments of Nearby Stars (EONS) programs is exploiting this capability in systematic surveys of nearby, and young stars searching for brown dwarfs and giant planets, and protoplanetary disks around main-sequence stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-233
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 1998
EventSpace Telescopes and Instruments V - Kona, HI, United States
Duration: Mar 20 1998Mar 20 1998


  • Brown Dwarfs
  • Coronagraphy
  • Extra-Solar Planets
  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • Infrared

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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