Emiel Por is our Leiden Observatory's nominee for the C.J. Kok Jury Award 2020.
About Emiel's research
Have you ever tried looking at the area right next to the sun? Probably not and you should not. The bright glare makes it impossible to see it. The same problem arises when astronomers search for exoplanets orbiting around distant stars; the objects are hidden in the bright starlight.
A way to solve this problem is by using coronagraphs, which are optical tools that can be placed in front of a telescope to block out the light from a star, making it possible for the fainter light from orbiting planets to reach the telescope.
‘It is mesmerising to see a new coronagraph design, that you worked on for so long with simulations on a computer, come to life in the laboratory. It makes all that hard work worthwhile.’
This thesis develops a complete mathematical theory for one class of coronagraphs and extends these with fibre optics. This new design is successfully demonstrated in the laboratory. It does not stop there. There is also a new software package presented, which can simulate coronagraphs together with the telescopes they attach to. And the thesis shows how another new coronagraph design called the PAPLC (Phase-Apodized-Pupil Lyot Coronagraph) can image around 25 per cent more exoplanets compared to the previous best designs. Chances are that we will see such a coronagraph on the next exoplanet imaging space telescope.
Emiel's work resulted in a NASA Hubble Fellowship.