Review of high-contrast imaging systems for current and future ground- and space-based telescopes I: coronagraph design methods and optical performance metrics


The Optimal Optical Coronagraph (OOC) Workshop at the Lorentz Center in September 2017 in Leiden, the Netherlands gathered a diverse group of 25 researchers working on exoplanet instrumentation to stimulate the emergence and sharing of new ideas. In this first installment of a series of three papers summarizing the outcomes of the OOC workshop, we present an overview of design methods and optical performance metrics developed for coronagraph instruments. The design and optimization of coronagraphs for future telescopes has progressed rapidly over the past several years in the context of space mission studies for Exo-C, WFIRST, HabEx, and LUVOIR as well as ground-based telescopes. Design tools have been developed at several institutions to optimize a variety of coronagraph mask types. We aim to give a broad overview of the approaches used, examples of their utility, and provide the optimization tools to the community. Though it is clear that the basic function of coronagraphs is to suppress starlight while maintaining light from off-axis sources, our community lacks a general set of standard performance metrics that apply to both detecting and characterizing exoplanets. The attendees of the OOC workshop agreed that it would benefit our community to clearly define quantities for comparing the performance of coronagraph designs and systems. Therefore, we also present a set of metrics that may be applied to theoretical designs, testbeds, and deployed instruments. We show how these quantities may be used to easily relate the basic properties of the optical instrument to the detection significance of the given point source in the presence of realistic noise.