7 May 2015 Speciality optical fibres for astronomy
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Abstract
Astrophotonics is a rapidly developing area of research which applies photonic technology to astronomical instrumentation. Such technology has the capability of significantly improving the sensitivity, calibration and stability of astronomical instruments, or indeed providing novel capabilities which are not possible using classical optics. We review the development and application of speciality fibres for astronomy, including multi-mode to single-mode converters, notch filters and frequency combs.In particular we focus on our development of instruments designed to filter atmospheric emission lines to enable much deeper spectroscopic observations in the near-infrared. These instruments employ two novel photonic technologies. First, we have developed complex aperiodic fibre Bragg gratings which filter over 100 irregularly spaced wavelengths in a single device, covering a bandwidth of over 200 nm. However, astronomical instruments require highly multi-mode fibres to enable sufficient coupling into the fibre, since atmospheric turbulence heavily distorts the wavefront. But photonic technologies such as fibre Bragg gratings, require single mode fibres. This problem is solved by the photonic lantern, which enables efficient coupling from a multi-mode fibre to an array of single-mode fibres and vice versa. We present the results of laboratory tests of these technologies and of on-sky experiments made using the first instruments to deploy these technologies on a telescope. These tests show that the fibre Bragg gratings suppress the night sky background by a factor of 9. Current instruments are limited by thermal and detector emission. Planned instruments should improve the background suppression even further, by optimising the design of the spectrograph for the properties of the photonic components. Finally we review ongoing research in astrophotonics, including multi-moded multicore fibre Bragg gratings, which enable multiple gratings to be written into the same device simultaneously, femtosecond direct-write photonic lanterns and Bragg gratings, and complex notch filters and frequency combs using microring resonators, and plans for future astrophotonic instrumentation.
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S. C. Ellis, S. C. Ellis, J. Bland-Hawthorn, J. Bland-Hawthorn, } "Speciality optical fibres for astronomy", Proc. SPIE 9507, Micro-structured and Specialty Optical Fibres IV, 95070C (7 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2178427; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2178427
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