ASEPS-0 Testbed Interferometer
The ASEPS-O Testbed Interferometer is a long-baseline infrared interferometer optimized for high-accuracy narrow-angle astrometry. It is being constructed by JPL for NASA as a testbed for the future Keck Interferometer to demonstrate the technology for the astrometric detection of exoplanets from the ground. Recent theoretical and experimental work has shown that extremely high accuracy narrow-angle astrometry, at the level of tens of microarcseconds in an hour of integration time, can be achieved with a long-baseline interferometer measuring closely-spaced pairs of stars. A system with performance close to these limits could conduct a comprehensive search for Jupiter- and Saturn-mass planets around stars of all spectral types, and for short-period Uranus-mass planets around nearby M and K stars. The key features of an instrument which can achieve this accuracy are long baselines to minimize atmospheric and photon-noise errors, a dual-star feed to route the light from two separate stars to two beam combiners, cophased operation using an infrared fringe detector to increase sensitivity in order to locate reference stars near a bright target, and laser metrology to monitor systematic errors. The ASEPS-O Testbed Interferometer will incorporate these features, with a nominal baseline of 100 m, 50- cm siderostats, and 40-cm telescopes at the input to the dual- star feeds. The fringe detectors will operate at 2.2 micrometers , using NICMOS-III arrays in a fast-readout mode controlling high-speed laser-monitored delay lines. Development of the interferometer is in progress, with installation at Palomar Mountain planned to begin in 1994.
© 1994 The International Society for Optical Engineering. SPIE. Thanks to Kadri Vural and Rockwell International for help with the NICMOS-III detectors. This work is funded by the Solar System Exploration Division of NASA. This work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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