Dragonfly Pupil Remapping Interferometer

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Dragonfly is a novel on-chip astronomical interferometry platform designed to be deployed on large telescopes and enables extreme-resolution imaging of exo-planets. It does this by segmenting and remapping the telescope’s pupil with a hexagonal array of micro-lenses and 3D waveguide circuits, much like a dragonfly’s compound eye (hence the name).

The instrument utilises a 37 element Micro-Electromechanical Mirror (MEMS) array to not only segment the telescope’s circular pupil, but also provide exquisite tip-tilt & phase control of each segment which is injected into single mode waveguides using a hexagonal microns array.

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Each segment of the MEMS can be controlled independently at kHz speeds, which when combined with our Adaptive Injection loop ensures that the telescope light is always perfectly coupled into the interferometer chip.

This unique method of injecting light into photonics on a telescope allows us to correct in real-time any subtle changes in the system, a requirement for interferometric devices.

Using an advanced laser fabrication techniques at the Macquarie CUDOS node, we sculpt waveguides in 3D to sample the now segmented pupil and remap them into a 1D linear array to feed an on-chip interferometer known as a Pairwise Beam Combiner. For the interferometry to work, the 3D waveguides are matched in length to within a fraction of the wavelength of light.

The entire Dragonfly photonic device, consisting of the Micro-lenses, the 3D waveguide chip, and the 2D beam combiner, is packaged into a single monolithic device. Precise alignment and bonding of the photonic components ensures that there is no misalignment as the telescope points around the sky, and makes the entire device incredibly robust compared to any other kind of interferometer.

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The Dragonfly Pupil Remapping Interferometer. The single device replaces entire laboratories of bulk optics.

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Sunset over the Warrumbungle Mountains the site of Australia's largest telescope, the AAT

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The Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT)

Dragonfly is currently being commissioned on the 4 m Anglo-Australian Telescope, Australia’s largest and premier optical observatory.The instrument took its first view of the stars in July 2015 and continues with a series of more on-sky runs in 2015-16.

Using the advanced interferometry enabled by Dragonfly, the AAT will be able to remove any atmospheric blurring when imaging distant worlds, beating the resolution of even the Hubble Space Telescope, and begin surveying nearby stars for the faint glint of nearby planets.

Led by Dr. Nick Cvetojevic, CUDOS , SIfA & AAO researchers are also installing a photonic injection platform alongside Dragonfly on the AAT. This key piece of infrastructure is enabling Australia to stay at the forefront of Astrophotonic instrumentation, ensuring the world-class facility continues to play a pivotal role developing the next-generation of tools to explore the universe.

For information on Masters and PhD projects available on the Dragonfly project, contact

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Dr. Alex Arriola (left) from MQ CUDOS and Dr. Nick Cvetojevic (right) CUDS/AAO installing Dragonfly at the bottom of the AAT in July, 2015.

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The Dragonfly & AAO teams in the AAT control room during instrument commissioning.

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