The WFIRST coronagraph instrument: A major step in the exploration of sun-like planetary systems via direct imaging

Bertrand Mennesson, J. Debes, E. Douglas, B. Nemati, C. Stark, J. Kasdin, B. Macintosh, M. Turnbull, M. Rizzo, A. Roberge, N. Zimmerman, K. Cahoy, J. Krist, V. Bailey, J. Trauger, J. Rhodes, L. Moustakas, M. Frerking, F. Zhao, I. PoberezhskiyR. Demers

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

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) Coronagraph Instrument (CGI) will be the first high-performance stellar coronagraph using active wavefront control for deep starlight suppression in space, providing unprecedented levels of contrast and spatial resolution for astronomical observations in the optical. One science case enabled by the CGI will be taking visible images and (R∼50) spectra of faint interplanetary dust structures present in the habitable zone of nearby sunlike stars (∼10 pc) and within the snow-line of more distant ones (∼20 pc), down to dust brightness levels commensurate with that of the solar system zodiacal cloud. Reaching contrast levels below 10-7 at sub-arcsecond angular scales for the first time, CGI will cross an important threshold in debris disks physics, accessing disks with low enough optical depths that their structure is dominated by transport mechanisms rather than collisions. Hence, CGI will help us understand how exozodiacal dust grains are produced and transported in low-density disks around mature stars. Additionally, CGI will be able to measure the brightness level and constrain the degree of asymmetry of exozodiacal clouds around individual nearby sunlike stars in the optical, at the ∼3x solar zodiacal emission level. This information will be extremely valuable for optimizing the observational strategy of possible future exo-Earth direct imaging missions, especially those planning to operate at optical wavelengths as well, such as the Habitable Exoplanet Observatory (HabEx) and the Large Ultraviolet/Optical/Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018
Subtitle of host publicationOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
EditorsGiovanni G. Fazio, Howard A. MacEwen, Makenzie Lystrup
PublisherSPIE
ISBN (Print)9781510619494
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
EventSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave - Austin, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2018Jun 15 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Volume10698
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X

Other

OtherSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
CountryUnited States
CityAustin
Period6/10/186/15/18

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

Keywords

  • Coronagraphy
  • Debris disks
  • Exoplanets
  • Exozodiacal light
  • High contrast imaging
  • Space astronomy

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