Best friends from now on: shaped pupils and Lyot coronagraphs

How a shaped pupil solves the "classical" Lyot coronagraph problem of monochromatic field cancellation.
Figure from Zimmerman, et al., 2016: Illustration of how a shaped pupil solves the “classical” Lyot coronagraph problem of monochromatic field cancellation.

An article I authored with my colleagues from the Princeton high-contrast lab has been published by the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems: Shaped pupil Lyot coronagraphs: High-contrast solutions for restricted focal planes.

For 15+ years, Lyot coronagraphs and shaped pupils have evolved in parallel as competing tools for producing a zone of destructive interference next to a star’s image, with the goal of revealing orbiting exoplanets. After all this time, it turns out they are much better together than apart.

We learned this fact not a moment too soon. The instrument designs for WFIRST are getting locked in place rapidly, and that mission may be our last chance for many years to launch an ambitious space-based exoplanet imager. The new hybrid shaped pupil Lyot coronagraph offers a winning balance of performance, fabrication maturity, and error tolerance.