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Efficient spectroscopy of exoplanets at small angular separations with vortex fiber nulling

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posted on 2023-11-30, 06:19 authored by Garreth Ruane, Ji Wang, Dimitri Mawet, Nemanja Jovanovic, Jacques-Robert Delorme, Bertrand Mennesson, J. Kent Wallace
Instrumentation designed to characterize potentially habitable planets may combine adaptive optics and high-resolution spectroscopy techniques to achieve the highest possible sensitivity to spectral signs of life. Detecting the weak signal from a planet containing biomarkers will require exquisite control of the optical wavefront to maximize the planet signal and significantly reduce unwanted starlight. We present an optical technique, known as vortex fiber nulling (VFN), that allows polychromatic light from faint planets at extremely small separations from their host stars ($\lesssim\lambda/D$) to be efficiently routed to a diffraction-limited spectrograph via a single-mode optical fiber, while light from the star is prevented from entering the spectrograph. VFN takes advantage of the spatial selectivity of a single-mode fiber to isolate the light from close-in companions in a small field of view around the star. We provide theoretical performance predictions of a conceptual design and show that VFN may be utilized to characterize planets detected by radial velocity (RV) instruments in the infrared without knowledge of the azimuthal orientation of their orbits. Using a spectral template-matching technique, we calculate an integration time of $\sim$400, $\sim$100, and $\sim$30 hr for Ross 128 b with Keck, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), and the Large Ultraviolet/Optical/Infrared (LUVOIR) Surveyor, respectively.

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