Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Optical Vortex Could Look Directly At Extrasolar Planets

Date:
December 1, 2005
Source:
American Institute of Physics
Summary:
A new optical device might allow astronomers to view extrasolar planets directly without the annoying glare of the parent star. It would do this by "nulling" out the light of the parent star by exploiting its wave nature, leaving the reflected light from the nearby planet to be observed in space-based detectors. The device, called an optical vortex coronagraph, is described in the December 15, 2005 issue of Optics Letters.

These laboratory images demonstrate how the optical vortex coronograph works. They were obtained with a green "star" and red "planet" (point light sources). (a) shows how the green light is "spun out," while the red light remains unaffected. Images of the point sources are shown when large (b) and small (c) apertures are used to limit the transmission of light from (a). (Reported by: Foo et al. in Optics Letters for 1 December 2005)

A new optical device might allow astronomers to view extrasolar planets directly without the annoying glare of the parent star. It would do this by "nulling" out the light of the parent star by exploiting its wave nature, leaving the reflected light from the nearby planet to be observed in space-based detectors. The device, called an optical vortex coronagraph, is described in the December 15, 2005 issue of Optics Letters.

Related Articles


About ten years ago the presence of planets around stars other than our sun was first deduced by the very tiny wobble in the star's spectrum of light imposed by the mutual tug between the star and its satellite. Since then more than 100 extrasolar planets have been detected in this way. Also, in a few cases the slight diminution in the star's radiation caused by the transit of the planet across in front of the star has been observed.

Many astronomers would, however, like to view the planet directly - a difficult thing to do. Seeing the planet next to its bright star has been compared to trying to discern, from a hundred meters away, the light of a match held up next to the glare of an automobile's headlight. The approach taken by Grover Swartzlander and his colleagues at the University of Arizona is to eliminate the star's light by sending it through a special helical-shaped mask, a sort of lens whose geometry resembles that of a spiral staircase turned on its side.

The process works in the following way: light passing through the thicker and central part of the mask is slowed down. Because of the graduated shape of the glass, an "optical vortex" is created: the light coming along the axis of the mask is, in effect, spun out of the image. It is nulled, as if an opaque mask had been place across the image of the star, but leaving the light from the nearby planet unaffected.

The idea of an optical vortex has been around for many years, but it has never been applied to astronomy before. In lab trials of the optical vortex mask, light from mock stars has been reduced by factors of 100 to 1000, while light from a nearby "planet" was unaffected (see test figures at http://www.aip.org/png/2005/241.htm). Attaching their device to a telescope on Mt. Lemon outside Tucson, Arizona, the researchers took pictures of Saturn and its nearby rings to demonstrate the ease of integrating the mask into a telescopic imaging system.

This is, according to Swartzlander, a more practical technique than merely attempting to cover over the star's image, as is done in coronagraphs, devices for observing our sun's corona by masking out the disk of the sun. It could fully come into its own on a project like the Terrestrial Planet Finder, or TPF, a proposed orbiting telescope to be developed over the coming decade and designed to image exoplanets.

###

Full paper title: "Optical Vortex Coronagraph" by Gregory Foo, David M. Palacios, Grover A. Swartzlander Jr., College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona

About OSA
The Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together an international network of the industry's preeminent optics and photonics scientists, engineers, educators, technicians and business leaders. Representing over 14,000 members from more than 80 different countries, OSA promotes the worldwide generation, application and dissemination of optics and photonics knowledge through its meetings, events and journals. Since its founding in 1916, OSA member benefits, programming, publications, products and services have set the industry's standard of excellence. Additional information on OSA is available on the Society's Web site at www.osa.org. OSA is proud to be a part of the World Year of Physics, a celebration of physics and the 100th anniversary of some of Einstein's greatest achievements. Optics is the branch of physics that studies the properties of light. For additional information on World Year of Physics, visit www.physics2005.org.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics. "Optical Vortex Could Look Directly At Extrasolar Planets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130232242.htm>.
American Institute of Physics. (2005, December 1). Optical Vortex Could Look Directly At Extrasolar Planets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130232242.htm
American Institute of Physics. "Optical Vortex Could Look Directly At Extrasolar Planets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130232242.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Reuters - Business Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) The entry by Cablevision and Google could intensify the already heated price wars for mobile phone service. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hector the Robot Mimics a Giant Stick Insect

Hector the Robot Mimics a Giant Stick Insect

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) A robot based on a stick insect can navigate difficult terrain autonomously and adapt to its surroundings. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Buzz60 (Jan. 26, 2015) Swiss scientists build a new drone that can both fly and walk, modeling it after the movements of common vampire bats. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama's Wildlife Plan Renews Alaska Drilling Debate

Obama's Wildlife Plan Renews Alaska Drilling Debate

Newsy (Jan. 26, 2015) President Obama&apos;s proposal aims to protect more land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but so far, all that&apos;s materialized is a war of words. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins