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Aims. Photometric monitoring of β Pic in 1981 showed anomalous fluctuations of up to 4% over several days, consistent with foreground material transiting the stellar disk. The subsequent discovery of the gas giant planet β Pic b and the predicted transit of its Hill sphere to within a 0.1 au projected separation of the planet provided an opportunity to search for the transit of a circumplanetary disk (CPD) in this 21 ± 4 Myr-old planetary system. We aim to detect, or put an upper limit on, the density and nature of the material in the circumplanetary environment of the planet via the continuous photometric monitoring of the Hill sphere transit that occurred in 2017 and 2018. Methods. Continuous broadband photometric monitoring of β Pic requires ground-based observatories at multiple longitudes to provide redundancy and to provide triggers for rapid spectroscopic follow-up. These include the dedicated β Pic monitoring bRing observatories in Sutherland and Siding Springs, the ASTEP400 telescope at Concordia, and the space observatories BRITE and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We search the combined light curves for evidence of short-period transient events caused by rings as well as for longer-term photometric variability due to diffuse circumplanetary material. Results. Wemore »
Vector-apodizing phase plate coronagraph: design, current performance, and future development [Invited]
Over the last decade, the vector-apodizing phase plate (vAPP) coronagraph has been developed from concept to on-sky application in many high-contrast imaging systems on 8 m class telescopes. The vAPP is a geometric-phase patterned coronagraph that is inherently broadband, and its manufacturing is enabled only by direct-write technology for liquid-crystal patterns. The vAPP generates two coronagraphic point spread functions (PSFs) that cancel starlight on opposite sides of the PSF and have opposite circular polarization states. The efficiency, that is, the amount of light in these PSFs, depends on the retardance offset from a half-wave of the liquid-crystal retarder. Using different liquid-crystal recipes to tune the retardance, different vAPPs operate with high efficiencies (
) in the visible and thermal infrared (0.55 µm to 5 µm). Since 2015, seven vAPPs have been installed in a total of six different instruments, including Magellan/MagAO, Magellan/MagAO-X, Subaru/SCExAO, and LBT/LMIRcam. Using two integral field spectrographs installed on the latter two instruments, these vAPPs can provide low-resolution spectra ( ) between 1 µm and 5 µm. We review the design process, development, commissioning, on-sky performance, and first scientific results of all commissioned vAPPs. We report on the lessons learned and conclude with perspectives for future developmentsmore »