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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Nulling interferometry for the darwin mission: laboratory demonstration experiment

Paper Abstract

The DARWIN mission is a project of the European Space Agency that should allow around 2012 the search for extrasolar planets and a spectral analysis of their potential atmosphere in order to evidence gases and particularly tracers of life.

The principle of the instrument is based on the Bracewell nulling interferometer. It allows high angular resolution and high dynamic range. However, this concept, proposed more than 20 years ago, has never been experimentally demonstrated in the thermal infrared with high levels of extinction. We present here a laboratory monochromatic experiment dedicated to this goal.

A theoretical and numerical approach of the question highlights a strong difficulty: the need for very clean and homogeneous wavefronts, in terms of intensity, phase and polarisation distribution. A classical interferometric approach appears to be insufficient to reach our goals. We have shown theoretically then numerically that this difficulty can be surpassed if we perform an optical filtering of the interfering beams. This technique allows us to decrease strongly the optical requirements and to view very high interferometric contrast measurements with commercial optical pieces.

We present here a laboratory interferometer working at 10,6 microns, and implementing several techniques of optical filtering (pinholes and single-mode waveguides), its realisation, and its first promising results. We particularly present measurements that exhibit stable visibility levels better than 99,9% that is to say extinction levels better than 1000.

Paper Details

Date Published: 21 November 2017
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 10569, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2000, 1056911 (21 November 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2307875
Show Author Affiliations
Marc Ollivier, Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie (France)
Alain Léger, Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (France)
Predrag Sekulic, Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (United States)
Alain Labèque, Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (France)
Guy Michel, Observatoire de Paris à Meudon (France)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10569:
International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2000
Georges Otrio, Editor(s)

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