Exoplanet Technology Lab

The Caltech Exoplanet Technology Laboratory or ET Lab is aimed at developing new technologies for the detection and characterization of exoplanets. In the ET lab, we are currently focussing on optical and infrared single-mode fiber testing for radial velocity applications, deformable mirror (DM) testing for ground-based adaptive optics systems, and on the demonstration of High Dispersion Coronagraphy (HDC) with two different testbeds. The first HDC testbed is using transmissive optics (lenses), a 12x12 Boston Micromachine DM, a vortex coronagraph and our first active fiber injection unit (FIU) prototype. This first HDC testbed will soon have a reflective twin, called the HCST.

High Contrast High-Resolution Spectroscopy for Segmented Telescopes Testbed - HCST

The new Caltech High Contrast High-Resolution Spectroscopy for Segmented Telescopes Testbed (or HCST), in our Cahill labs, is aimed at filling a gap in technology development for future exoplanet missions and providing the US community with an academic facility to test coronagraph and wavefront control technologies for future segmented telescopes. The goal of HCST is multi-fold and will address high-contrast direct imaging and spectroscopy of exoplanets from the ground (TMT, E-ELT) and space (LUVOIR, HDST, HabEx).

HCST's telescope simulator not only includes the 37-segment IRIS AO PT111L but also a brand new PTT939, capable of simulating any segmented telescope geometry up to 313 segments! HCST also has an actuated phase plate to simulate time-varying external wavefrontdisturbances (e.g.~thermal changes). HCST has recently passed a thorough design review with our panel composed of high contrast imaging testbed experts from JPL, Princeton, NASA Ames, and TMT, our Caltech/JPL team. We expect all equipment to be delivered by Fall 2016, on-time for the planned testbed integration. Our baseline design contains the telescope simulator, a downstream wavefront corrector which includes a single Boston Micromachines (BMC) kilo-DM (32x32 actuators) as currently planned, followed by a classical 3-plane single-stage coronagraph (entrance apodizer, focal-plane mask, Lyot stop), and a science instrument. 

For the back-end instrument, we will use simple camera and a high-resolution echelle spectrograph, which is a unique feature of HCST. The spectrograph instrument will be used to study the trade-offs involved in utilizing spectral information in exoplanet detection as a way to improve contrast down to the photon-noise limit, the chromaticity of new optimized coronagraph and wavefront control concepts, and the overall scientific functions of future, large, segmented telescopes. HCST is currently funded by various internal sources at Caltech and JPL. 

© Dimitri Mawet 2017