Probing Photon Statistics in Adaptive Optics Images with SCExAO/MEC

Sarah Steiger, Timothy D. Brandt, Olivier Guyon, Noah Swimmer, Alexander B. Walter, Clinton Bockstiegel, Julien Lozi, Vincent Deo, Sebastien Vievard, Nour Skaf, Kyohoon Ahn, Nemanja Jovanovic, Frantz Martinache, Benjamin A. Mazin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We present an experimental study of photon statistics for high-contrast imaging with the Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detector (MKID) Exoplanet Camera (MEC) located behind the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics System at the Subaru Telescope. We show that MEC measures the expected distributions for both on-axis companion intensity and off-axis intensity, which manifests as quasi-static speckles in the image plane and currently limits high-contrast imaging performance. These statistics can be probed by any MEC observation due to the photon-counting capabilities of MKID detectors. Photon arrival time statistics can also be used to directly distinguish companions from speckles using a post-processing technique called Stochastic Speckle Discrimination (SSD). Here, we give an overview of the SSD technique and highlight the first demonstration of SSD on an extended source - the protoplanetary disk AB Aurigae. We then present simulations that provide an in-depth exploration as to the current limitations of an extension of the SSD technique called Photon-Counting SSD (PCSSD) to provide a path forward for transitioning PCSSD from simulations to on-sky results. We end with a discussion of how to further improve the efficacy of such arrival-time-based post-processing techniques applicable to both MKIDs, as well as other high-speed astronomical cameras.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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