Asgard/NOTT: L-band nulling interferometry at the VLTI I. Simulating the expected high-contrast performance

ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHYSICS(2022)

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Abstract
Context: NOTT (formerly Hi-5) is a new high-contrast L' band (3.5-4.0 \textmu m) beam combiner for the VLTI with the ambitious goal to be sensitive to young giant exoplanets down to 5 mas separation around nearby stars. The performance of nulling interferometers in these wavelengths is affected both by fundamental noise from the background and by the contributions of instrumental noises. This motivates the development of end-to-end simulations to optimize these instruments. Aims: To enable the performance evaluation and inform the design of such instruments on the current and future infrastructures, taking into account the different sources of noise, and their correlation. Methods: SCIFYsim is an end-to-end simulator for single mode filtered beam combiners, with an emphasis on nulling interferometers. It is used to compute a covariance matrix of the errors. Statistical detection tests based on likelihood ratios are then used to compute compound detection limits for the instrument. Results: With the current assumptions on the performance of the wavefront correction systems, the errors are dominated by correlated instrumental errors down to stars of magnitude 6-7 in the L band, beyond which thermal background from the telescopes and relay system becomes dominant. Conclusions: SCIFYsim is suited to anticipate some of the challenges of design, tuning, operation and signal processing for integrated optics beam combiners. The detection limits found for this early version of NOTT simulation with the unit telescopes are compatible with detections at contrasts up to $10^5$ in the L band at separations of 5 to 80 mas around bright stars.
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Key words
techniques: interferometric, techniques: high angular resolution, methods: data analysis, methods: statistical
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