Analysis of external occulters in the presence of defects

Philip Dumont, Stuart Shaklan, Eric Cady, Jeremy Kasdin, Robert Vanderbei

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

14 Scopus citations


Fifty meter-class external occulters have been proposed to detect earth-like planets. The THEIA concept1, a forty-meter diameter occulter with twenty ten-meter petals has the necessary nominal performance to achieve this goal. This paper examines whether this design is robust against expected manufacturing and deployment errors. The development of a numerical algorithm that represents the mask defects as a collection of rectangular apertures mitigates the problems associated with modeling diffraction phenomena produced by an occulter with characteristic physical dimensions that span five orders of magnitude. The field from each of these rectangles, which is proportional to a two-dimensional sinc function at the telescope, is added to the diffracted field from the nominal occulter. Results for a set of representative defects are presented. A single-petal, single-defect error budget, based on a minimum contrast of 10-12 at 75 or 118 milli-arcseconds from the host star from 0.3 μ to 0.9 μ, is quoted. A Monte Carlo-type simulation that predicts the performance of the occulter in the presence of random combinations of all of the error demonstrates that the system contrast can maintained to better than 10-11 from 0.3 μ to 0.9 μ if the values in the error budget can be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets IV
StatePublished - 2009
EventTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets IV - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 4 2009Aug 5 2009

Publication series

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


OtherTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets IV
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • external occulter
  • finding
  • near-field diffraction


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