References of "Mawet, D"
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See detailFirst scattered-light images of the gas-rich debris disk around 49 Ceti
Choquet, É.; Milli, J.; Wahhaj, Z. et al

in Astrophysical Journal Letters (2017), 834(2), 12

We present the first scattered-light images of the debris disk around 49 ceti, a ~40 Myr A1 main sequence star at 59 pc, famous for hosting two massive dust belts as well as large quantities of atomic and ... [more ▼]

We present the first scattered-light images of the debris disk around 49 ceti, a ~40 Myr A1 main sequence star at 59 pc, famous for hosting two massive dust belts as well as large quantities of atomic and molecular gas. The outer disk is revealed in reprocessed archival Hubble Space Telescope NICMOS F110W images, as well as new coronagraphic H band images from the Very Large Telescope SPHERE instrument. The disk extends from 1.1" (65 AU) to 4.6" (250 AU), and is seen at an inclination of 73degr, which refines previous measurements at lower angular resolution. We also report no companion detection larger than 3 M_Jup at projected separations beyond 20 AU from the star (0.34"). Comparison between the F110W and H-band images is consistent with a grey color of 49 ceti's dust, indicating grains larger than >2microns. Our photometric measurements indicate a scattering efficiency / infrared excess ratio of 0.2-0.4, relatively low compared to other characterized debris disks. We find that 49 ceti presents morphological and scattering properties very similar to the gas-rich HD 131835 system. From our constraint on the disk inclination we find that the atomic gas previously detected in absorption must extend to the inner disk, and that the latter must be depleted of CO gas. Building on previous studies, we propose a schematic view of the system describing the dust and gas structure around 49 ceti and hypothetic scenarios for the gas nature and origin. [less ▲]

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See detailDiscovery of a low-mass companion inside the debris ring surrounding the F5V star HD 206893
Milli, J.; Hibon, P.; Christiaens, Valentin ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 597

<BR /> Aims: Uncovering the ingredients and the architecture of planetary systems is a very active field of research that has fuelled many new theories on giant planet formation, migration, composition ... [more ▼]

<BR /> Aims: Uncovering the ingredients and the architecture of planetary systems is a very active field of research that has fuelled many new theories on giant planet formation, migration, composition, and interaction with the circumstellar environment. We aim at discovering and studying new such systems, to further expand our knowledge of how low-mass companions form and evolve. <BR /> Methods: We obtained high-contrast H-band images of the circumstellar environment of the F5V star HD 206893, known to host a debris disc never detected in scattered light. These observations are part of the SPHERE High Angular Resolution Debris Disc Survey (SHARDDS) using the InfraRed Dual-band Imager and Spectrograph (IRDIS) installed on VLT/SPHERE. <BR /> Results: We report the detection of a source with a contrast of 3.6 × 10[SUP]-5[/SUP] in the H-band, orbiting at a projected separation of 270 milliarcsec or 10 au, corresponding to a mass in the range 24 to 73 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] for an age of the system in the range 0.2 to 2 Gyr. The detection was confirmed ten months later with VLT/NaCo, ruling out a background object with no proper motion. A faint extended emission compatible with the disc scattered light signal is also observed. <BR /> Conclusions: The detection of a low-mass companion inside a massive debris disc makes this system an analog of other young planetary systems such as β Pictoris, HR 8799 or HD 95086 and requires now further characterisation of both components to understand their interactions. [less ▲]

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See detailOptimizing the subwavelength grating of L-band annular groove phase masks for high coronagraphic performance
Vargas Catalán, E.; Huby, Elsa ULg; Forsberg, P. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2016), 595

Context. The annular groove phase mask (AGPM) is one possible implementation of the vector vortex coronagraph, where the helical phase ramp is produced by a concentric subwavelength grating. For several ... [more ▼]

Context. The annular groove phase mask (AGPM) is one possible implementation of the vector vortex coronagraph, where the helical phase ramp is produced by a concentric subwavelength grating. For several years, we have been manufacturing AGPMs by etching gratings into synthetic diamond substrates using inductively coupled plasma etching. <BR /> Aims: We aim to design, fabricate, optimize, and evaluate new L-band AGPMs that reach the highest possible coronagraphic performance, for applications in current and forthcoming infrared high-contrast imagers. <BR /> Methods: Rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) is used for designing the subwavelength grating of the phase mask. Coronagraphic performance evaluation is performed on a dedicated optical test bench. The experimental results of the performance evaluation are then used to accurately determine the actual profile of the fabricated gratings, based on RCWA modeling. <BR /> Results: The AGPM coronagraphic performance is very sensitive to small errors in etch depth and grating profile. Most of the fabricated components therefore show moderate performance in terms of starlight rejection (a few 100:1 in the best cases). Here we present new processes for re-etching the fabricated components in order to optimize the parameters of the grating and hence significantly increase their coronagraphic performance. Starlight rejection up to 1000:1 is demonstrated in a broadband L filter on the coronagraphic test bench, which corresponds to a raw contrast of about 10[SUP]-5[/SUP] at two resolution elements from the star for a perfect input wave front on a circular, unobstructed aperture. <BR /> Conclusions: Thanks to their exquisite performance, our latest L-band AGPMs are good candidates for installation in state of the art and future high-contrast thermal infrared imagers, such as METIS for the E-ELT. [less ▲]

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See detailThree years of harvest with the vector vortex coronagraph in the thermal infrared
Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, D.; Karlsson, M. et al

in Evans, C.; Simard, L.; Takami, H. (Eds.) Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy VI (2016, June 26)

For several years, we have been developing vortex phase masks based on sub-wavelength gratings, known as Annular Groove Phase Masks. Etched onto diamond substrates, these AGPMs are currently designed to ... [more ▼]

For several years, we have been developing vortex phase masks based on sub-wavelength gratings, known as Annular Groove Phase Masks. Etched onto diamond substrates, these AGPMs are currently designed to be used in the thermal infrared (ranging from 3 to 13 μm). Our AGPMs were first installed on VLT/NACO and VLT/VISIR in 2012, followed by LBT/LMIRCam in 2013 and Keck/NIRC2 in 2015. In this paper, we review the development, commissioning, on-sky performance, and early scientific results of these new coronagraphic modes and report on the lessons learned. We conclude with perspectives for future developments and applications. [less ▲]

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See detailLow-rank plus sparse decomposition for exoplanet detection in direct-imaging ADI sequences. The LLSG algorithm
Gómez González, Carlos ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Absil, P.-A. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2016), 589

Context. Data processing constitutes a critical component of high-contrast exoplanet imaging. Its role is almost as important as the choice of a coronagraph or a wavefront control system, and it is ... [more ▼]

Context. Data processing constitutes a critical component of high-contrast exoplanet imaging. Its role is almost as important as the choice of a coronagraph or a wavefront control system, and it is intertwined with the chosen observing strategy. Among the data processing techniques for angular differential imaging (ADI), the most recent is the family of principal component analysis (PCA) based algorithms. It is a widely used statistical tool developed during the first half of the past century. PCA serves, in this case, as a subspace projection technique for constructing a reference point spread function (PSF) that can be subtracted from the science data for boosting the detectability of potential companions present in the data. Unfortunately, when building this reference PSF from the science data itself, PCA comes with certain limitations such as the sensitivity of the lower dimensional orthogonal subspace to non-Gaussian noise. <BR /> Aims: Inspired by recent advances in machine learning algorithms such as robust PCA, we aim to propose a localized subspace projection technique that surpasses current PCA-based post-processing algorithms in terms of the detectability of companions at near real-time speed, a quality that will be useful for future direct imaging surveys. <BR /> Methods: We used randomized low-rank approximation methods recently proposed in the machine learning literature, coupled with entry-wise thresholding to decompose an ADI image sequence locally into low-rank, sparse, and Gaussian noise components (LLSG). This local three-term decomposition separates the starlight and the associated speckle noise from the planetary signal, which mostly remains in the sparse term. We tested the performance of our new algorithm on a long ADI sequence obtained on β Pictoris with VLT/NACO. <BR /> Results: Compared to a standard PCA approach, LLSG decomposition reaches a higher signal-to-noise ratio and has an overall better performance in the receiver operating characteristic space. This three-term decomposition brings a detectability boost compared to the full-frame standard PCA approach, especially in the small inner working angle region where complex speckle noise prevents PCA from discerning true companions from noise. [less ▲]

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See detailDirect exoplanet imaging with small-angle Vortex coronagraphs
Defrere, Denis ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, D. et al

Conference (2015, July 16)

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They enhance the dynamic range at very small inner working angle ... [more ▼]

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They enhance the dynamic range at very small inner working angle (down to the diffraction limit of the telescope) and provide a clear 360 degree discovery space for high-contrast direct imaging of exoplanets. In this talk, we will report on the first scientific results obtained with Vortex coronagraphs installed on 10-m class telescopes (i.e., the VLT and the LBT) and on the recent installation of one Vortex at Keck. We will describe the in-lab and on-sky performance of the Vortex, and describe the lessons learned after a few years of operation. Finally, we will discuss the prospects of our vortices for future extremely large telescopes and space missions. [less ▲]

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See detailFundamental Limitations of High Contrast Imaging Set by Small Sample Statistics
Mawet, D.; Milli, J.; Wahhaj, Z. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 792

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star, the number of resolution elements decreases rapidly toward small angles. This reduction of the number of degrees of freedom dramatically affects CLs and false alarm probabilities. Naively using the same ideal hypothesis and methods as for larger separations, which are well understood and commonly assume Gaussian noise, can yield up to one order of magnitude error in contrast estimations at fixed CL. The statistical penalty exponentially increases toward very small inner working angles. Even at 5-10 resolution elements from the star, false alarm probabilities can be significantly higher than expected. Here we present a rigorous statistical analysis that ensures robustness of the CL, but also imposes a substantial limitation on corresponding achievable detection limits (thus contrast) at small angles. This unavoidable fundamental statistical effect has a significant impact on current coronagraphic and future high-contrast imagers. Finally, the paper concludes with practical recommendations to account for small number statistics when computing the sensitivity to companions at small angles and when exploiting the results of direct imaging planet surveys. [less ▲]

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See detailVery deep images of the disc around beta Pictoris at Lp
Milli, J.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Mouillet, D. et al

Poster (2014, September 08)

We present observations of the innermost regions of the disc around beta Pictoris performed with VLT/NaCo in the Lp band. We combined seven deep datasets to retrieve the morphology of the disc down to 0 ... [more ▼]

We present observations of the innermost regions of the disc around beta Pictoris performed with VLT/NaCo in the Lp band. We combined seven deep datasets to retrieve the morphology of the disc down to 0.1arcsec. Our observations reveal intriguing ripples in the midplane of the disk at 0.5arcsec, as well as an overall bow of the disc spine, compatible with a disc slightly inclined with respect to edge-on scattering light anisotropically. Modelling suggests the presence of dust down to 10AU in order to explain the bright flux seen below 0.5 arcsec. [less ▲]

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on LBTI/LMIRCam
Defrere, Denis ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hinz, P. et al

in Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering (2014, July 21)

We present the first observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM vortex coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCam. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from ... [more ▼]

We present the first observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM vortex coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCam. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond subwavelength gratings. It is designed to improve the sensitivity and dynamic range of high-resolution imaging at very small inner working angles, down to 0.09 arcseconds in the case of LBTI/LMIRCam in the L' band. During the first hours on sky, we observed the young A5V star HR8799 with the goal to demonstrate the AGPM performance and assess its relevance for the ongoing LBTI planet survey (LEECH). Preliminary analyses of the data reveal the four known planets clearly at high SNR and provide unprecedented sensitivity limits in the inner planetary system (down to the diffraction limit of 0.09 arcseconds). © 2014 SPIE. [less ▲]

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See detailVery deep images of the innermost regions of the beta Pictoris debris disc at L'
Milli, J.; Lagrange, A.-M.; Mawet, D. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2014), 566

Context. Very few debris discs have been imaged in scattered light at wavelengths beyond 3 mum because the thermal emission from both the sky and the telescope is generally too strong with respect to the ... [more ▼]

Context. Very few debris discs have been imaged in scattered light at wavelengths beyond 3 mum because the thermal emission from both the sky and the telescope is generally too strong with respect to the faint emission of a debris disc. We present here the first analysis of a high angular resolution image of the disc of beta Pictoris at 3.8 mum. <BR /> Aims: Our primary objective is to probe the innermost parts of the beta Pictoris debris disc and describe its morphology. We performed extensive forward modelling to correct for the biases induced by angular differential imaging on extended objects and derive the physical parameters of the disc. <BR /> Methods: This work relies on a new analysis of seven archival data sets of beta Pictoris observed with the NaCo instrument at the Very Large Telescope in the L' band, including observations made with the Annular Groove Phase Mask vortex coronagraph in 2013. The data analysis consists of angular differential imaging associated with disc forward modelling to correct for the biases induced by that technique. The disc model is subtracted from the data and the reduction performed again in order to minimize the residuals in the final image. <BR /> Results: The disc is detected above a 5sigma level between 0.4'' and 3.8''. The two extensions have a similar brightness within error bars. We confirm an asymmetry previously observed at larger distances from the star and at shorter wavelengths: the isophotes are more widely spaced [less ▲]

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on LBTI/LMIRCAM
Defrere, Denis ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hinz, P. et al

Poster (2014, March)

We present the first science observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCAM. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from ... [more ▼]

We present the first science observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCAM. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength gratings tuned to the L'-band. It is designed to improve the sensitivity and dynamic range of high-resolution imaging at very small inner working a [less ▲]

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See detailCompanion search around β Pictoris with the newly commissioned L'-band vector vortex coronagraph on VLT/NACO
Mawet, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Milli, J. et al

in Booth, Mark; Matthews, Brenda; Graham, James (Eds.) Exploring the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems (2014, January 01)

Here we present the installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond ... [more ▼]

Here we present the installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond subwavelength gratings tuned to the L' band. The vector vortex coronagraph enables high contrast imaging at very small inner working angle (here 0''.09, the diffraction limit of the VLT at L'), potentially being the key to a new parameter space. During technical and science verification runs, we discovered a late-type companion at two beamwidths from an F0V star (Mawet et al. 2013), and imaged the inner regions of β Pictoris down to the previously unexplored projected radius of 1.75 AU. The circumstellar disk was also resolved from ~= 1'' to 5'' (see J. Milli et al., these proceedings). These results showcase the potential of the NACO L-band AGPM over a wide range of spatial scales. [less ▲]

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See detailSearching for companions down to 2 AU from β Pictoris using the L'-band AGPM coronagraph on VLT/NACO
Absil, Olivier ULg; Milli, J.; Mawet, D. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 559

Context. The orbit of the giant planet discovered around β Pic is slightly inclined with respect to the outer parts of the debris disc, which creates a warp in the inner debris disc. This inclination ... [more ▼]

Context. The orbit of the giant planet discovered around β Pic is slightly inclined with respect to the outer parts of the debris disc, which creates a warp in the inner debris disc. This inclination might be explained by gravitational interactions with other planets. <BR /> Aims: We aim to search for additional giant planets located at smaller angular separations from the star. <BR /> Methods: We used the new L'-band AGPM coronagraph on VLT/NACO, which provides an exquisite inner working angle. A long observing sequence was obtained on β Pic in pupil-tracking mode. To derive sensitivity limits, the collected images were processed using a principal-component analysis technique specifically tailored to angular differential imaging. <BR /> Results: No additional planet is detected down to an angular separation of 0.''2with a sensitivity better than 5 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]. Meaningful upper limits (<10 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]) are derived down to an angular separation of 0.''1, which corresponds to 2 AU at the distance of β Pic. [less ▲]

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See detailReconnaissance of the β Pictoris system down to 1.75 AU with the L' - b and vector vortex coronagraph on VLT/NACO
Milli, J.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, D. et al

Conference (2013, September 01)

High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited parameter space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the HST. Only a few objects were discovered ... [more ▼]

High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited parameter space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the HST. Only a few objects were discovered, and many non-detections reported and statistically interpreted. The field is now in need of a technological breakthrough. We aim at opening a new parameter space with first-generation systems such as NACO at the Very Large Telescope, by providing ground-breaking inner working angle (IWA) capabilities in the L' band. This mid-infrared wavelength range is a sweet spot for high contrast coronagraphy since the planets-to-star brightness ratio is favorable, while Strehl ratio is naturally higher. An annular groove phase mask (AGPM) vector vortex coronagraph optimized for the L' band, made out of diamond subwavelength gratings has been manufactured and qualified in the lab. The AGPM enables high contrast imaging at very small IWA (here 0".09), potentially being the key to a new parameter space. Here we present the results of the installation and successful commissioning of an L'- band AGPM on VLT/NACO. During a recent science verification run, we imaged the inner regions of Beta Pictoris down to the previously unexplored projected radius of 1.75 AU with unprecedented point source sensitivity. The disk was also clearly resolved down to its inner truncation . The new NACO mode is an opportunity to introduce a more rigorous framework for deriving detection limits at very small angles, which is also relevant for SPHERE and GPI and every high contrast imaging instrument with small IWA ambitions. Indeed, classical tools assuming Gaussian statistics, perfectly valid at large separations, loose significance close to the center simply because the sample size decreases dramatically (fewer resolution elements at a given radius). Moreover, the probability density function (PDF) of speckle noise and associated confidence level for detection depend on radius. ADI was shown to transform speckles'modified Rician PDF into quasi-Gaussian PDF at large separations, but it is expected that this property of ADI does not hold true at small angles. Finally, the flux attenuation induced by ADI, potentially significant at small angles, does not scale linearly with the companion brightness, which makes its calibration more difficult. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh Contrast Imaging with the New Vortex Coronagraph on NACO
Mawet, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Girard, J. H. et al

in The Messenger (2013), 152

The installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band annular groove phase mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO is presented. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength ... [more ▼]

The installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band annular groove phase mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO is presented. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength gratings tuned to the L'-band. The vector vortex coronagraph enables high-contrast imaging at very small inner working angles (here 0.09 arcseconds, the diffraction limit of the VLT at L'), potentially opening up a new parameter space in high-resolution imaging. During technical and science verification runs, we discovered a late-type companion at two beamwidths from an F0V star, and imaged the inner regions of β Pictoris down to the previously unexplored projected radius of 1.75 astronomical units. The circumstellar disc of β Pic was also resolved from 1 to 5 arcseconds. These results showcase the potential of the NACO L'-band AGPM over a wide range of spatial scales. [less ▲]

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on VLT/NACO: Discovery of a late-type companion at two beamwidths from an F0V star
Mawet, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Delacroix, Christian ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 552

Context. High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited search space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the Hubble Space Telescope. Only a few ... [more ▼]

Context. High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited search space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the Hubble Space Telescope. Only a few objects were discovered, and many non-detections reported and statistically interpreted. The field is now in need of a technological breakthrough. Aim. Our aim is to open a new search space with first-generation systems such as NACO at the Very Large Telescope, by providing ground-breaking inner working angle (IWA) capabilities in the L' band. The L' band is a sweet spot for high contrast coronagraphy since the planet-to-star brightness ratio is favorable, while the Strehl ratio is naturally higher. Methods. An annular groove phase mask (AGPM) vector vortex coronagraph optimized for the L' band, made from diamond subwavelength gratings was manufactured and qualified in the lab. The AGPM enables high contrast imaging at very small IWA, potentially being the key to unexplored discovery space. Results. Here we present the installation and successful on-sky tests of an L'-band AGPM coronagraph on NACO. Using angular differential imaging, which is well suited to the rotational symmetry of the AGPM, we demonstrated a \Delta L' > 7.5 mag contrast from an IWA ~ 0".09 onwards, during average seeing conditions, and for total integration times of a few hundred seconds. [less ▲]

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See detailImage quality and high contrast improvements on VLT/NACO
Girard, J. H. V.; O'Neal, J.; Mawet, D. et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2012)

NACO is the famous and versatile diffraction limited NIR imager and spectrograph at the VLT with which ESO celebrated 10 years of Adaptive Optics. Since two years a substantial effort has been put in ... [more ▼]

NACO is the famous and versatile diffraction limited NIR imager and spectrograph at the VLT with which ESO celebrated 10 years of Adaptive Optics. Since two years a substantial effort has been put in understanding and fixing issues that directly affect the image quality and the high contrast performances of the instrument. Experiments to compensate the non-common-path aberrations and recover the highest possible Strehl ratios have been carried out successfully and a plan is hereafter described to perform such measurements regularly. The drift associated to pupil tracking since 2007 was fixed in october 2011. NACO is therefore even more suited for high contrast imaging and can be used with coronagraphic masks in the image plane. Some contrast measurements are shown and discussed. The work accomplished on NACO will serve as reference for the next generation instruments on the VLT, especially the ones working at the diffraction limit and making use of angular differential imaging (i.e. SPHERE, VISIR, and possibly ERIS). [less ▲]

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See detailHigh-contrast Stellar Observations within the Diffraction Limit at the Palomar Hale Telescope
Mennesson, B.; Hanot, Charles ULg; Serabyn, Eugene et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2011), 743

We report on high-accuracy high-resolution (<20 mas) stellar observations obtained with the Palomar Fiber Nuller (PFN), a near-infrared (sime2.2 μm) interferometric coronagraph installed at the Palomar ... [more ▼]

We report on high-accuracy high-resolution (<20 mas) stellar observations obtained with the Palomar Fiber Nuller (PFN), a near-infrared (sime2.2 μm) interferometric coronagraph installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. The PFN uses destructive interference between two elliptical (3 m × 1.5 m) sub-apertures of the primary to reach high dynamic range inside the diffraction limit of the full telescope. In order to validate the PFN's instrumental approach and its data reduction strategy, based on the newly developed "Null Self-Calibration" (NSC) method, we observed a sample of eight well-characterized bright giants and supergiants. The quantity measured is the source astrophysical null depth, or equivalently the object's visibility at the PFN 3.2 m interferometric baseline. For the bare stars α Boo, α Her, β And, and α Aur, PFN measurements are in excellent agreement with previous stellar photosphere measurements from long baseline interferometry. For the mass-losing stars β Peg, α Ori, ρ Per, and χ Cyg, circumstellar emission and/or asymmetries are detected. Overall, these early observations demonstrate the PFN's ability to measure astrophysical null depths below 10[SUP]-2[/SUP] (limited by stellar diameters), with 1 σ uncertainties as low as a few 10[SUP]-4[/SUP]. Such visibility accuracy is unmatched at this spatial resolution in the near-infrared and translates into a contrast better than 10[SUP]-3[/SUP] within the diffraction limit. With further improvements anticipated in 2011/2012, a state-of-the-art infrared science camera and a new extreme adaptive optics system, the PFN should provide a unique tool for the detection of hot debris disks and young self-luminous sub-stellar companions in the immediate vicinity of nearby stars. [less ▲]

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See detailA Dim Candidate Companion to epsilon Cephei
Mawet, D.; Mennesson, B.; Serabyn, E. et al

in Astrophysical Journal Letters (2011), 738

Using a vector vortex coronagraph behind the 1.5 m well-corrected subaperture (WCS) at Palomar, we detected a second object very close to epsilon Cephei, a δ Scuti F0 IV star. The candidate companion, ~50 ... [more ▼]

Using a vector vortex coronagraph behind the 1.5 m well-corrected subaperture (WCS) at Palomar, we detected a second object very close to epsilon Cephei, a δ Scuti F0 IV star. The candidate companion, ~50 times fainter than epsilon Cephei, if physically associated, is a late-type K or early M star, and lies at an angular separation of 330 mas, or 1.1 λ/D for the WCS, making it the smallest angle detection ever realized with a coronagraph in terms of λ/D units. The projected separation of the putative companion is ~8.6 AU, most likely on a highly eccentric orbit. The recently detected near-infrared excess is thus likely not due to hot dust. Moreover, we also show that the previously reported IRAS 60 μm excess was due to source confusion on the galactic plane. [less ▲]

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See detailNew Constraints on Companions and Dust within a Few AU of Vega
Mennesson, B.; Serabyn, E.; Hanot, Charles ULg et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2011), 736

We report on high contrast near-infrared (~2.2 μm) observations of Vega obtained with the Palomar Fiber Nuller, a dual sub-aperture rotating coronagraph installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. The data ... [more ▼]

We report on high contrast near-infrared (~2.2 μm) observations of Vega obtained with the Palomar Fiber Nuller, a dual sub-aperture rotating coronagraph installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. The data show consistent astrophysical null depth measurements at the ~= 10[SUP]–3[/SUP] level or below for three different baseline orientations spanning 60 deg in azimuth, with individual 1σ uncertainties <=7 × 10[SUP]–4[/SUP]. These high cancellation and accuracy levels translate into a dynamic range greater than 1000:1 inside the diffraction limit of the 5 m telescope beam. Such high contrast performance is unprecedented in the near-infrared and provides improved constraints on Vega's immediate (sime20 to 250 mas, or sime0.15 to 2 AU) environment. In particular, our measurements rule out any potential companion in the [0.25-1 AU] region contributing more than 1% of the overall near-infrared stellar flux, with limits as low as 0.2% near 0.6 AU. These are the best upper limits established so far by direct detection for a companion to Vega in this inner region. We also conclude that any dust population contributing a significant (>=1%) near-infrared thermal excess can arise only within 0.2 AU of the star, and that it must consist of much smaller grains than in the solar zodiacal cloud. Dust emission from farther than sime2 AU is also not ruled out by our observations, but would have to originate in strong scattering, pointing again to very small grains. Based on observations obtained at the Hale Telescope, Palomar Observatory as part of a continuing collaboration between the California Institute of Technology, NASA/JPL, and Cornell University. [less ▲]

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