In conjunction with a space telescope of modest size, a starshade can be used as an external occulter to block light from a target star, enabling the detection of exoplanets in close orbits. Typically, the starshade will be placed some 50,000 km from the telescope and the system oriented so that the sun is on the opposite side of the shade to the telescope, but somewhat away from the line of sight. A small amount of sunlight can scatter from the edges of the shade directly into the telescope. Since the photon rate from an earthlike exoplanet might be only a few photons per minute, it is desirable that the scattered sunlight is also near this level. We have built an analytical model of the performance of starshade edges for both specular and Lambertian surfaces and derived requirements for properties such as reflectivity and radius of curvature. A computer model was also developed to show the appearance of the sunlight from the starshade and assess the contrast with the exoplanet. A commercial electromagnetism code was also used to investigate aspects of the results. We also constructed a scatterometer with which various test edges were measured and derived the likely performance if used in a starshade. We discuss these models and give the principal results.
We have built and commissioned gas absorption cells for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared in the H and K bands. We describe the construction and installation of three such cells filled with 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 14NH3 for the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). We have obtained their high-resolution laboratory Fourier Transform spectra, which can have other practical uses. We summarize the practical details involved in the construction of the three cells, and the thermal and mechanical control. In all cases, the construction of the cells is very affordable. We are carrying out a pilot survey with the 13CH4 methane gas cell on the CSHELL spectrograph at the IRTF to detect exoplanets around low mass and young stars. We discuss the current status of our survey, with the aim of photon-noise limited radial velocity precision. For adequately bright targets, we are able to probe a noise floor of 7 m/s with the gas cell with CSHELL at cassegrain focus. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using a gas cell on the next generation of near-infrared spectrographs such as iSHELL on IRTF, iGRINS, and an upgraded NIRSPEC at Keck.
We have built and commissioned a prototype agitated non-circular core ber scrambler for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared H band. We have collected the rst on-sky performance and modal noise tests of these novel bers in the near-infrared at H and K bands using the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF). We discuss the design behind our novel reverse injection of a red laser for co-alignment of star-light with the ber tip via a corneWe have built and commissioned a prototype agitated non-circular core fiber scrambler for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared H band. We have collected the first on-sky performance and modal noise tests of these novel fibers in the near-infrared at H and K bands using the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF). We discuss the design behind our novel reverse injection of a red laser for co-alignment of star-light with the fiber tip via a corner cube and visible camera. We summarize the practical details involved in the construction of the fiber scrambler, and the mechanical agitation of the fiber at the telescope. We present radial velocity measurements of a bright standard star taken with and without the fiber scrambler to quantify the relative improvement in the obtainable blaze function stability, the line spread function stability, and the resulting radial velocity precision. We assess the feasibility of applying this illumination stabilization technique to the next generation of near-infrared spectrographs such as iSHELL on IRTF and an upgraded NIRSPEC at Keck. Our results may also be applied in the visible for smaller core diameter fibers where Fiber modal noise is a significant factor, such as behind an adaptive optics system or on a small < 1 meter class telescope such as is being pursued by the MINERVA and LCOGT collaborations.r cube and visible camera. We summarize the practical details involved in the construction of the ber scrambler, and the mechanical agitation of the ber at the telescope. We present radial velocity measurements of a bright standard star taken with and without the ber scrambler to quantify the relative improvement in the obtainable blaze function stability, the line spread function stability, and the resulting radial velocity precision. We assess the feasibility of applying this illumination stabilization technique to the next generation of near-infrared spectrographs such as iSHELL on IRTF and an upgraded NIRSPEC at Keck. Our results may also be applied in the visible for smaller core diameter bers where ber modal noise is a signi cant factor, such as behind an adaptive optics system or on a small < 1 meter class telescope such as is being pursued by the MINERVA and LCOGT collaborations.
A phase-shifting Zernike wavefront sensor has distinct advantages over other types of wavefront sensors. Chief among
them are: 1) improved sensitivity to low-order aberrations and 2) efficient use of photons (hence reduced sensitivity to
photon noise). We are in the process of deploying a phase-shifting Zernike wavefront sensor to be used with the real-time
adaptive optics system for Palomar. Here we present the current state of the Zernike wavefront sensor to be
integrated into the high-order adaptive optics system at Mount Palomar’s Hale Telescope.
The Keck Interferometer combines the two 10m diameter Keck telescopes for near-infrared fringe visibility, and mid-infrared
nulling observations. We report on recent progress with an emphasis on new visibility observing capabilities,
operations improvements for visibility and nulling, and on recent visibility science. New visibility observing capabilities
include a grism spectrometer for higher spectral resolution. Recent improvements include a new AO output dichroic for
increased infrared light throughput, and the installation of new wave-front controllers on both Keck telescopes. We also
report on recent visibility results in several areas including (1) young stars and their circumstellar disks, (2) pre-main
sequence star masses, and (3) Circumstellar environment of evolved stars. Details on nuller instrument and nuller science
results, and the ASTRA phase referencing and astrometry upgrade, are presented in more detail elsewhere in this
The Keck Interferometer combines the two 10 m Keck telescopes as a long baseline interferometer, funded by
NASA, as a joint development among the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the W. M. Keck Observatory, and the
Michelson Science Center. Since 2004, it has offered an H- and K-band fringe visibility mode through the Keck
TAC process. Recently this mode has been upgraded with the addition of a grism for higher spectral resolution.
The 10 um nulling mode, for which first nulling data were collected in 2005, completed the bulk of its engineering
development in 2007. At the end of 2007, three teams were chosen in response to a nuller key science call to
perform a survey of nearby stars for exozodiacal dust. This key science observation program began in Feb. 2008.
Under NSF funding, Keck Observatory is leading development of ASTRA, a project to add dual-star capability for
high sensitivity observations and dual-star astrometry. We review recent activity at the Keck Interferometer, with an
emphasis on the nuller development.
The Keck Angle Tracker (KAT) is a key subsystem in the NASA-funded Keck Interferometer at the Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. KAT, which has been in operation since the achievement of first fringes in March 2001, senses the tilt of the stellar wavefront for each of the beams from the interferometer telescopes and provides tilt error signals to fast tip/tilt mirrors for high-bandwidth, wavefront tilt correction. In addition, KAT passes low-bandwidth, desaturation offsets to the adaptive optics system of the Keck telescopes to correct for slow pointing drifts. We present an overview of the instrument design and recent performance of KAT in support of the V2 science and nulling observing modes of the Keck Interferometer.
The Keck Interferometer Nuller (KIN) is now largely in place at the Keck Observatory, and functionalities and
performance are increasing with time. The main goal of the KIN is to examine nearby stars for the presence of exozodiacal
emission, but other sources of circumstellar emission, such as disks around young stars, and hot exoplanets are
also potential targets. To observe with the KIN in nulling mode, knowledge of the intrinsic source spectrum is essential,
because of the wide variety of wavelengths involved in the various control loops - the AO system operates at visible
wavelengths, the pointing loops use the J-band, the high-speed fringe tracker operates in the K-band, and the nulling
observations take place in the N-band. Thus, brightness constraints apply at all of these wavelengths. In addition, source
structure plays a role at both K-band and N-band, through the visibility. In this talk, the operation of the KIN is first
briefly described, and then the sensitivity and performance of the KIN is summarized, with the aim of presenting an
overview of the parameter space accessible to the nuller. Finally, some of the initial observations obtained with the KIN
The Keck Interferometer Nuller (KIN) will be used to examine nearby stellar systems for the presence of circumstellar exozodiacal emission. A successful pre-ship review was held for the KIN in June 2004, after which the KIN was shipped to the Keck Observatory. The integration of the KIN's many sub-systems on the summit of Mauna Kea, and initial on-sky testing of the system, has occupied the better part of the past year. This paper describes the KIN system-level configuration, from both the hardware and control points of view, as well as the current state of integration of the system and the measurement approach to be used. During the most recent on-sky engineering runs in May and July 2005, all of the sub-systems necessary to measure a narrowband null were installed and operational, and the full nulling measurement cycle was carried out on a star for the first time.
Mid-infrared (8-13μm) nulling is a key observing mode planned for the NASA-funded Keck Interferometer at the Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. By destructively interfering and thereby canceling the on-axis light from nearby stars, this observing mode will enable the characterization of the faint emission from exo-zodiacal dust surrounding these stellar systems. We report here the null leakage error budget and pre-ship results obtained in the laboratory after integration of the nulling beam combiner with its mid-infrared camera and key components of the Keck Interferometer. The mid-infrared nuller utilizes a dual-polarization, modified Mach-Zehnder (MMZ) beam combiner in conjunction with an atmospheric dispersion corrector to achieve broadband achromatic nulling.
The first high-dynamic-range interferometric mode planned to come on line at the Keck Observatory is mid-infrared nulling. This observational mode, which is based on the cancellation of the on-axis starlight arriving at the twin Keck telescopes, will be used to examine nearby stellar systems for the presence of circumstellar exozodiacal emission. This paper describes the system level layout of the Keck Interferometer Nuller (KIN), as well as the final performance levels demonstrated in the laboratory integration and test phase at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory prior to shipment of the nuller hardware to the Keck Observatory in mid-June 2004. On-sky testing and observation with the mid-infrared nuller are slated to begin in August 2004.
Nulling interferometry shows promise as a technique enabling investigation of faint objects such as planets and exo-zodiacal dust around nearby stars. At Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a nulling beam combiner has been built for the Terrestrial Planet Finder project and has been used to pursue deep and stable narrowband nulls. We describe the design and layout of the modified Mach Zehnder TPF nuller, and the results achieved in the laboratory to date. We report stabilized nulls at about the 10-6 level achieved using a CO2 laser operating at 10.6 μm, and discuss the alignment steps needed to produce good performance. A pair of similar nullers has been built for the Keck Observatory, for planned observations of exo-zodiacal dust clouds. We also show briefly a result from the Keck breadboard experiments: passively stabilized nulls centered around 10.6 micron of about 2 10-4 have been achieved at bandwidths of 29%.
A tabletop rotational-shearing interferometer experiment has been constructed and operated at JPL to serve as a testbed for the mid-infrared (~10 μm) nulling beam combiners on the Keck Interferometer and the Terrestrial Planet Finder. The testbed is a pupil-plane combiner in which destructive combination of the incoming wavefronts is achieved using a rooftop mirror system in which the polarization vector is flipped along the vertical axis on one arm and the horizontal axis on the other. The optical pathlength along one arm is adjustable using a linear stage driven by picomotor and piezoelectric actuators. The combined light is focussed onto a single-pixel LN2-cooled HgCdTe detector. In order to provide adequate sensitivity in the presence of the very bright thermal emission from the room-temperature optics, the light source is modulated and the output is demodulated using a lock-in amplifier. The optical pathlength difference (OPD) is stabilized under computer control by slowly dithering the actuated arm and balancing the leakage signal on either side of the null. The system has produced a stabilized null depth of < 10-4 using a diode laser source emitting at a wavelength of 9.2 μm, and transient nulls of 10-2 with a broadband thermal IR source in a 6.4% optical bandpass.
Final design details are given for UnISIS, the University of Illinois Seeing Improvement System. The principle components include a 50 Watt Excimer laser working at 351 nm which produces a pulsed Rayleigh laser guide star at 333 Hz and 18 km altitude, a 177-actuator deformable mirror, an atmospheric dispersion correction system, and a science camera configuration with both visual and near-IR cameras that can be used simultaneously. Two high-speed CCD cameras are used to feed dual quad C40 DSP-based reconstructor to close the feedback loop with the deformable mirror. The adaptive optics system is situated on a large optics table that rests above the old Coude spectrograph of the Mt. Wilson 2.5-m telescope and the Excimer laser is located in a basement Coude room.
The Keck Interferometer is being developed by JPL and CARA as one of the ground-based components of NASA's Origins Program. The interferometer will combine the two 10-m Keck telescopes with four proposed 1.8-m outrigger telescopes located at the periphery of the Keck site on Mauna Kea. Incorporation of adaptive optics on the Keck telescopes with cophasing using an isoplanatic reference provides high sensitivity. Back-end instrumentation will include two-way combiners for cophasing and single-baseline measurements, a nulling combiner for high-dynamic range measurements, and a multi-way imaging combiner. Science objectives include the characterization of zodiacal dust around other stars, detection of hot Jupiters and brown dwarfs through multi- color differential-phase measurements, astrometric searches for planets down to Uranus-mass, and a wide range of IR imaging.
JPL and CARA are building a multi-element, IR interferometer for NASA to be situated at the twin Keck Observatories on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Initially, the 10-m diameter Keck telescopes will be augmented with four fixed-location 2-m class outrigger telescopes resulting in 15 non-redundant baselines, the longest being approximately equals 110 m or nearly 5 X 107 ((lambda) /2.2micrometers )-1 wavelengths. Fast adaptive optics and tip-tilt corrections will be used to phase up the Keck and outrigger apertures, respectively. The entire array will be co-phased by observing a relatively bright target on the photon rich Keck-Keck (K-K) and Keck- outrigger (K-O) baselines. When fully phased, the projected fringe phaser sensitivity for unresolved targets will be K- 22.0, 20.0 and 17.9 on the K-K, K-O and O-O baselines, respectively. Synthetic imaging capability will be available in the 1.6-10.0 micrometers atmospheric transmission bands at angular resolutions of 4.0 milli-arcseconds. In this article, we briefly outline the adopted methodology, imaging hardware, projected sensitivities and summarize the scientific potential of the instrument as an imaging interferometer.
The Stellar Interferometer Technology Experiment (SITE) is a near-term precursor mission for spaceborne optical interferometry. Proposed by the MIT Space Engineering Research Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SITE is a two-aperture stellar interferometer located in the payload bay of the Space Shuttle. It has a baseline of four meters, operates with a detection bandwidth of 300 nanometers in the visible spectrum, and consists of three optical benches kinematically mounted inside a precision truss structure. The objective of SITE is to demonstrate system-level functionality of a space-based stellar interferometer through the use of enabling and enhancing Controlled Structures Technologies such as vibration isolation and suppression. Moreover, SITE will validate, in the space environment, technologies such as optical delay lines, laser metrology systems, fringe detectors, active fringe trackers, and high- bandwidth pointing control systems which are critical for realizing future space-based astrometric and imaging interferometers.
The Stellar Interferometer Tracking Experiment (SITE) is a Space Shuttle flight experiment proposed by the MIT Space Engineering Research Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The SITE instrument is a two-aperture stellar interferometer with a baseline of four meters and a detection bandwidth of 200 - 780 nanometers. The objective of SITE is to validate in the space environment the detectors and fringe-tracking control systems necessary for future space-based astrometric and imaging interferometers. The cophasing and coalignmnet requirements of the stellar beams for such instruments demand nanometer pathlength and milli-arcsecond jitter control in order to acquire precise fringe amplitude and phase measurements. SITE will evaluate and quantify the effects of vibration isolation, structural quieting, and active pathlength and beam tilt control technologies on the ability to capture and track the central interference fringe from a star. This paper describes the conceptual optical design of the SITE instrument.