Design trade-off and proof of concept for LOUPE, the Lunar Observatory for Unresolved Polarimetry of Earth

H. J. Hoeijmakers, M. L J Arts, F. Snik, C. U. Keller, J. M. Kuiper

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We provide a proof of the technical feasibility of LOUPE, the first integral-field snapshot spectropolarimeter, designed to monitor the reflected flux and polarization spectrum of Earth. These are to be used as benchmark data for the retrieval of biomarkers and atmospheric and surface characteristics from future direct observations of exoplanets. We perform a design tradeoff for an implementation in which LOUPE performs snapshot integral-field spectropolarimetry at visible wavelengths. We used off-the-shelf optics to construct a polarization modulator, in which polarization information is encoded into the spectrum as a wavelength-dependent modulation, while spatial resolution is maintained using a micro-lens array. The performance of this design concept is validated in a laboratory setup. Our proof-of-concept is capable of measuring a grid of 50 x 50 polarization spectra between 610 and 780 nm of a mock target planet - proving the merit of this design. The measurements are affected by systematic noise on the percent level, and we discuss how to mitigate this in future iterations. We conclude that LOUPE can be small and robust while meeting the science goals of this particular space application, and note the many potential applications that may benefit from our concept for doing snapshot integral-field spectropolarimetry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21435-21453
Number of pages19
JournalOptics Express
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2016

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