Polarization aberration in astronomical telescopes

Russell A. Chipman, Wai Sze T. Lam, James Breckinridge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

14 Scopus citations


The point spread function (PSF) for astronomical telescopes and instruments depends not only on geometric aberrations and scalar wave diffraction, but also on the apodization and wavefront errors introduced by coatings on reflecting and transmitting surfaces within the optical system. The functional form of these aberrations, called polarization aberrations, result from the angles of incidence and the variations of the coatings as a function of angle. These coatings induce small modifications to the PSF, which consists of four separate components, two nearly Airy-disk PSF components, and two faint components, we call ghost PSF components, with a spatial extent about twice the size of the diffraction limited image. As the specifications of optical systems constantly improve, these small effects become increasingly important. It is shown how the magnitude of these ghost PSF components, at ∼10-5 in the example telescope, can interfere with exoplanet detection with coronagraphs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPolarization Science and Remote Sensing VII
EditorsJoseph A. Shaw, Daniel A. LeMaster
ISBN (Electronic)9781628417791
StatePublished - 2015
EventPolarization Science and Remote Sensing VII - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 11 2015Aug 12 2015

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherPolarization Science and Remote Sensing VII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • Polarization
  • imaging
  • polarization aberration
  • polarization ray tracing

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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