Hybrid Lyot Coronagraph for the ACCESS Mission


John Trauger and the ACCESS science and engineering team


Jet Propulsion Laboratory


We report the design and fabrication of hybrid focal-plane masks for Lyot coronagraphy, supported this year by NASA’s Technology Demonstration for Exoplanet Missions (TDEM) program. These masks are composed of thickness-profiled metallic and dielectric thin films, and manufactured by vacuum deposition on a glass substrate. Hybrid masks are in principle band-limited in both the real and imaginary parts of the complex amplitude characteristics, providing the theoretical basis for mathematically perfect starlight suppression. Together with a deformable mirror for control of wavefront phase, these masks achieve contrast levels of 2e-10 at inner working angles of 3 lambda/D, over spectral bandwidths of 20% or more, and with throughput efficiencies of 60%.

We evaluate the science potential of these coronagaph masks in the context of ACCESS, a representative exoplanet mission concept. ACCESS is one of four medium-class concepts studied in 2008-2009 under NASA’s Astrophysics Strategic Mission Concepts Study program. In a nutshell, the ACCESS study seeks the most capable medium-class coronagraphic mission that is possible with high-readiness telescope, instrument, and spacecraft technologies available today.

The ACCESS study compared the performance of four major coronagraph architectures. It defined a conceptual space observatory platform as the “level playing field” for comparisons among coronagraph types. And it used laboratory validation of the representative coronagraph types as a second “level playing field” for assessing coronagraph hardware readiness. ACCESS identifies a class of scientifically compelling mission concepts built upon mature (TRL6+) subsystem technologies, and evaluates science reach of a medium-class coronagraph mission. Using current high-TRL technologies, the ACCESS minimum science program surveys the nearest 120+ AFGK stars for exoplanet systems, and surveys the majority of those for exozodiacal dust to the level of 1 zodi at 3 AU. Discoveries are followed up with R=20 spectrophotometry.

Attached documents

Lyot2010proc s9 talk TraugerJ.pdf
PDF, 18.7 Mb