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Opt Express. 2009 Oct 26;17(22):20515-20. doi: 10.1364/OE.17.020515.

Coronagraphic mask design using Hermite functions.

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  • 1Departamento de FĂ­sica Aplicada, Universidad de Cantabria Los Castros S/N, 39005 Santander, Spain. perezcm@unican.es


We introduce a stellar coronagraph that uses a coronagraphic mask described by a Hermite function or a combination of them. It allows the detection of exoplanets providing both deep starlight extinction and high angular resolution. This angular resolution depends on the order of the Hermite function used. An analysis of the coronagraph performance is carried out for different even order masks. Numerical simulations of the ideal case, with no phase errors and perfect telescope pointing, show that on-axis starlight is reduced to very low intensity levels corresponding to a gain of at least 25 magnitudes (10(-10) light intensity reduction). The coronagraphic throughput depends on the Hermite function or combination selected. The proposed mask series presents the same advantages of band limited masks along with the benefit of reducing the light diffracted by the mask border thanks to its particular shape. Nevertheless, for direct detection of Earth-like exoplanets it requires the use of adaptive optics facilities for compensating the perturbations introduced by the atmosphere and by the optical system.

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