Polarimetric imaging mode of VLT/SPHERE/IRDIS. II. Characterization and correction of instrumental polarization effects


Context. Circumstellar disks and self-luminous giant exoplanets or companion brown dwarfs can be characterized through direct- imaging polarimetry at near-infrared wavelengths. SPHERE/IRDIS at the Very Large Telescope has the capabilities to perform such measurements, but uncalibrated instrumental polarization effects limit the attainable polarimetric accuracy.
Aims: We aim to characterize and correct the instrumental polarization effects of the complete optical system, that is, the telescope and SPHERE/IRDIS.
Methods: We created a detailed Mueller matrix model in the broadband filters Y, J, H, and K$_s$ and calibrated the model using measurements with SPHERE’s internal light source and observations of two unpolarized stars. We developed a data-reduction method that uses the model to correct for the instrumental polarization effects, and applied it to observations of the circumstellar disk of T Cha.
Results: The instrumental polarization is almost exclusively produced by the telescope and SPHERE’s first mirror and varies with telescope altitude angle. The crosstalk primarily originates from the image derotator (K-mirror). At some orientations, the derotator causes severe loss of signal (> 90% loss in the H- and K$_s$-band) and strongly offsets the angle of linear polarization. With our correction method we reach, in all filters, a total polarimetric accuracy of łesssim0.1% in the degree of linear polarization and an accuracy of a few degrees in angle of linear polarization.
Conclusions: The correction method enables us to accurately measure the polarized intensity and angle of linear polarization of circumstellar disks, and is a vital tool for detecting spatially unresolved (inner) disks and measuring the polarization of substellar companions. We have incorporated the correction method in a highly-automated end-to-end data- reduction pipeline called IRDAP, which we made publicly available online.

Based on observations made with ESO telescopes at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under program ID 60.A-9800(S), 60.A-9801(S) and 096.C-0248(C).

The data- reduction pipeline IRDAP is available at <A href=``https://irdap .readthedocs.io'‘>http://https://irdap.readthedocs.io

Astronomy & Astrophysics