Direct imaging is crucial to increase our knowledge on extrasolar planetary systems. It can detect long orbits planets that are inaccessible by other methods and it allows the spectroscopic characterization of exoplanet’s athmospheres. During the past fewyears, several giant planetswere detected by direct imaging methods. Yet, as exoplanets are 103 to 1010 fainter than their host star in visible and near-infrared wavelengths, direct imaging requires extremely high contrast imaging techniques, especially to detect low-mass and mature exoplanets. Coronagraphs are used to reject the diffracted light of an observed star and obtain images of its circumstellar environment. Nevertheless, coronagraphs are efficient only if the wavefront is flat because aberrated wavefronts induce speckles in the focal plane which mask exoplanet images. Thus, wavefront sensors associated to deformable mirrors are mandatory to correct speckles by reducing aberrations. To test coronagraph techniques and focal plane wavefront sensors at very high contrast level, we developed the THD2 bench in the optical wavelengths. On the THD2 bench, we routinely reach 108 raw contrast level inside the dark hole over broadbands but this level is not sufficient to detect low-mass exoplanets. At this level, it seems that many experimental factors can affect the contrast and understanding which one is limiting the final detection contrast will be useful to upgrade the THD2 bench and to develop the next generation of space-based instruments (LUVOIR, HabEx) aiming to reach 10-10 contrast level. We started a complete study of the instrumental limitations of the THD2 bench, focusing on scattering which could add intensity on the detector or polarization effects and residual laboratory turbulences. In this paper, we present the methods used to estimate the amount of scattered light that reaches the final detector on the THD2 bench.
High-contrast imaging (HCI) techniques appear like the best solutions to directly characterize the atmosphere of large orbit planets and planetary environments. In the last 20 years, different HCI solutions have been proposed based on coronagraphs. Some of them have been characterized in the laboratory or even on the sky. The optimized performance of these coronagraphs requires a perfect wavefront unreachable without active control of the complete electrical field (phase and amplitude) at the entrance of the instrument. While the correction of the phase aberrations is straight forward using deformable mirrors (DM), correcting amplitude defects is complex and still under study at the laboratory level. The next generation of HCI instrument either for ground-based (PCS instrument for ELT) or space-based (LUVOIR, HabEx) telescopes will require a practical and operational solution for amplitude corrections. The implementation of a DM located at a finite distance from the pupil is a simple solution that has been chosen by most of the projects. There have been only a few investigations on the optimization of the mirror positions for dedicated optical designs. In this paper, we give an intuitive approach that helps defining the best deformable mirror position in an instrument. Then, we describe its application to the THD2 and the performance in the laboratory that reaches a contrast level below 10-8 at distance larger than 6 λ/D.
MICADO is the European ELT first-light imager, working in the near-infrared at the telescope diffraction limit. Provided by MAORY, the ELT first-light adaptive optics module (AO), MCAO will be the primary AO mode of MICADO, driving the design of the instrument. MICADO will also come with a SCAO capability. Developed under MICADO’s responsibility and jointly by MICADO and MAORY, SCAO will be the first AO mode to be tested at the telescope, in a phased approach of the AO integration at the ELT. The MICADO-MAORY SCAO preliminary design review (PDR) will occur in November 2018. We present here different activities and results we have had in the past two years preparing this PDR, covering several fields (opto-mechanics, electronics, real-time and control software, integration and tests, AO simulations and performance, prototyping) and the different SCAO subsystems (pyramid wavefront sensor, calibration unit, real-time computer, dichroic and the so-called Green Doughnut which hosts the SCAO assembly as well as the MAORY MCAO natural guide star wavefront sensors).