The basic principle and theoretical relationships of an original method are presented that allow the wave-front errors of a ground or spaceborne telescope to be retrieved when its main pupil is combined with a second, decentered reference optical arm. The measurement accuracy of such a telescope–interferometer is then estimated by means of various numerical simulations, and good performance is demonstrated, except in limited areas near the telescope pupil’s rim. In particular, it permits direct phase evaluation (thus avoiding the use of first- or second-order derivatives), which will be of special interest for the cophasing of segmented mirrors in future giant-telescope projects. Finally, the useful practical domain of the method is defined, which seems to be better suited for periodic diagnostics of space- or ground-based telescopes or to real-time scientific observations in some specific cases (e.g., the central star in instruments that search for extrasolar planets).
© 2005 Optical Society of America
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