Gerard: Direct Imaging of Habitable Exoplanets* (*In the Next Decade) / Pasham: X-ray follow-up studies of highly energetic extragalactic explosions

Oct 01, 2019 - 11:00 am to 12:00 pm

Campus, Varian 355

Ben Gerard (University of Victoria) / Dheeraj Pasham (MIT)

Direct detection and detailed characterization of habitable exoplanets is a key science goal of future observatories. Although space-based telescopes will characterize exo-Earths in the late 2030s, extreme adaptive optics (ExAO) on extremely large ground-based telescopes (ELTs) has the potential to enable such characterization in the next decade.

However, if current state-of-the-art ExAO instruments are placed on ELTs, we would still be orders of magnitude less sensitive than what is needed to image a habitable exoplanet. With current telescopes we are also orders of magnitude away from imaging and characterizing the thermal emission from young exo-Jupiters and the reflected starlight from any exoplanets. Current ExAO instruments are unable to reach these deeper contrasts due to chromatic and temporal wavefront errors. I will first demonstrate the effect of these limitations using on-sky datasets taken with the Subaru Coronagraphic ExAO system. I will then illustrate a path forward: fast focal plane wavefront sensing of both quasi-static and atmospheric speckles. Our new method, called the Fast Atmospheric Self-coherent camera Technique (FAST), is designed to overcome these limitations. I will present the concept of FAST and show results from both numerical simulations and laboratory testing. These results illustrate that the improvement from FAST could enable direct imaging of gas giants in reflected light and young exo-Jupiters in thermal emission on current telescopes and, in the future, habitable exoplanets on ELTs.



Ben Gerard is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He obtained a Bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He works with high contrast imaging and adaptive optics groups on new techniques for exoplanet imaging, including data processing and adaptive optics methods for both current and future instruments. He is a member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey collaboration.