The ideal linear discriminant or Hotelling observer is widely used for detection tasks and image-quality assessment in medical imaging, but it has had little application in other imaging fields. We apply it to detection of planets outside of our solar system with long-exposure images obtained from ground-based or space-based telescopes. The statistical limitations in this problem include Poisson noise arising mainly from the host star, electronic noise in the image detector, randomness or uncertainty in the point-spread function (PSF) of the telescope, and possibly a random background. PSF randomness is reduced but not eliminated by the use of adaptive optics. We concentrate here on the effects of Poisson and electronic noise, but we also show how to extend the calculation to include a random PSF. For the case where the PSF is known exactly, we compare the Hotelling observer to other observers commonly used for planet detection; comparison is based on receiver operating characteristic (ROC) and localization ROC (LROC) curves.
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