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Overview and Reassessment of Noise Budget of Starshade Exoplanet Imaging

Hu, Renyu and Lisman, Doug and Shaklan, Stuart and Martin, Stefan and Willems, Phil and Short, Kendra (2020) Overview and Reassessment of Noise Budget of Starshade Exoplanet Imaging. . (Unpublished)

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High-contrast imaging enabled by a starshade in formation flight with a space telescope can provide a near-term pathway to search for and characterize temperate and small planets of nearby stars. NASA’s Starshade Technology Development Activity to TRL5 (S5) is rapidly maturing the required technologies to the point at which starshades could be integrated into potential future missions. Here we reappraise the noise budget of starshade-enabled exoplanet imaging to incorporate the experimentally demonstrated optical performance of the starshade and its optical edge. Our analyses of stray light sources – including the leakage through micrometeoroid damage and the reflection of bright celestial bodies – indicate that sunlight scattered by the optical edge (i.e., the solar glint) is by far the dominant stray light. With telescope and observation parameter that approximately correspond to Starshade Rendezvous with Roman and HabEx, we find that the dominating noise source would be exozodiacal light for characterizing a temperate and Earth-sized planet around Sun-like and earlier stars and the solar glint for later-type stars. Further reducing the brightness of solar glint by a factor of 10 with a coating would prevent it from becoming the dominant noise for both Roman and HabEx. With an instrument contrast of 10⁻¹⁰, the residual starlight is not a dominant noise; and increasing the contrast level by a factor 10 would not lead to any appreciable change in the expected science performance. If unbiased calibration of the background to the photon-noise limit can be achieved, Starshade Rendezvous with Roman could provide nearly photon-limited spectroscopy of temperate and Earth-sized planets of F, G, and K stars < 4 parsecs away, and HabEx could extend this capability to many more stars < 8 parsecs. Larger rocky planets around stars < 8 parsecs would be within the reach of Roman. To achieve these capabilities, the exozodiacal light may need to be calibrated to a precision better than 2% and the solar glint better than 5%. Our analysis shows that the expected temporal variability of the solar glint is unlikely to hinder the calibration, and the main challenge for background calibration likely comes from the unsmooth spatial distribution of exozodiacal dust in some stars. Taken together, these results validate the optical noise budget and technology milestones adopted by S5 against key science objectives and inform the priorities of future technology developments and science and industry community partnerships.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
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Hu, Renyu0000-0003-2215-8485
Additional Information:© 2020 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged. We thank Sergi Hildebrandt for providing example SISTER simulations, and Karl Stapelfeldt, Eric Mamajek, and Andrew Romero-Wolf for helpful discussion. The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Starshade, High Contrast Imaging, Exoplanet, Stray Light, Roman Space Telescope, HabEx
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210111-160836034
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:107404
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:12 Jan 2021 16:36
Last Modified:12 Jan 2021 16:36

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