AR 14561 (Archival Research)

Sat Jul 20 09:06:21 GMT 2024

Principal Investigator: Samuel Factor
PI Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Investigators (xml)

Title: Kernel-Phase Interferometry for Super-Resolution Detection of Faint Companions
Cycle: 24

Direct detection of close in companions (binary systems or exoplanets) is notoriously difficult. While chronagraphs and point spread function (PSF) subtraction can be used to reduce contrast and dig out signals of companions under the PSF, there are still significant limitations in separation and contrast. While non-redundant aperture masking (NRM) interferometry can be used to detect companions well inside the PSF of a diffraction limited image, the mask discards ~95% of the light gathered by the telescope and thus the technique is severely flux limited. Kernel-phase analysis applies interferometric techniques similar to NRM though utilizing the full aperture. Instead of closure-phases, kernel-phases are constructed from a grid of points on the full aperture, simulating a redundant interferometer. I propose to develop my own faint companion detection pipeline which utilizes an MCMC analysis of kernel-phases. I will search for new companions in archival images from NIC1 and ACS/HRC in order to constrain binary and planet formation models at separations inaccessible to previous techniques. Using this method, it is possible to detect a companion well within the classical l/D Rayleigh diffraction limit using a fraction of the telescope time as NRM. This technique can easily be applied to archival data as no mask is needed and will thus make the detection of close in companions cheap and simple as no additional observations are needed. Since the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to perform NRM observations, further development and characterization of kernel-phase analysis will allow efficient use of highly competitive JWST telescope time.