Reference-less detection, astrometry, and photometry of faint companions with adaptive optics
Christou, Julian C.
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Gladysz, Szymon; Christou, Julian C. (2009). Reference-less detection, astrometry, and photometry of faint companions with adaptive optics. The Astrophysical Journal 698 (1), 28-42
We propose a complete framework for the detection, astrometry, and photometry of faint companions from a sequence of adaptive optics (AO) corrected short exposures. The algorithms exploit the difference in statistics between the on-axis and off-axis intensity of the AO point-spread function (PSF) to differentiate real sources from speckles. We validate the new approach and illustrate its performance using moderate Strehl ratio data obtained with the natural guide star AO system on the Lick Observatory's 3 m Shane Telescope. We obtain almost a 2 mag gain in achievable contrast by using our detection method compared to 5 sigma detectability in long exposures. We also present a first guide to expected accuracy of differential photometry and astrometry with the new techniques. Our approach performs better than PSF-fitting in general and especially so for close companions, which are located within the uncompensated seeing (speckle) halo. All three proposed algorithms are self-calibrating, i.e., they do not require observation of a calibration star. One of the advantages of this approach is improved observing efficiency.