Explore the Laboratory
Created in 2013, the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory is dedicated to advancing technologies for future generations of space telescopes. Our current research focuses on enabling direct images of exoplanets using large segmented telescopes in space — high contrast coronagraphy, optical mirror alignments, applications of deformable mirrors for wavefront sensing and control, and digital micromirror devices for multi-object spectroscopy.
Technologies for Future Space Missions
The Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is a state-of-the-art laboratory dedicated to developing technologies for future space missions. The laboratory space was originally built as a high stability environment for creating the Hubble Guide Star Catalog by scanning photographic plates in the 1980s. In early 2013, the lab was completely renovated to accommodate the growing demand for instrumentation development. On May 9, 2013 the lab was inaugurated and now features an electronics workshop and gowning area, adjacent office space for the team, and three cleanrooms. The cleanrooms are temperature, humidity, and pressure controlled with vibration isolation pads original to the STScI construction.
Experiments and Testbeds
Below is a current list of the experments taking place within the lab.
High-contrast imager for Complex Aperture Telescopes (HiCAT)
This project seeks to develop high contrast coronagraphic techniques for segmented telescopes, providing an integrated solution for wavefront control and starlight suppression on segmented aperture geometries. Developing this technology will enable direct imaging of exoplanets from space with very large telescopes such as Habex or LUVOIR
"BabyCAT" is our affectionate nickname for the coronagraphy tutorial bench specifically use for public outreach & demonstrations of coronagraphy. We can also use it to learn some practical skills for application on more complex systems such as HiCAT.
The Space Telescope Ultraviolet Facility (The STUF)
The STUF has been funded to study the optical properties of digital micromirror devices (DMDs) in the ultraviolet (UV) regime. The STUF optical bench will be hosted within the Makidon Lab at STScI. Our experiments will consist of a reflectometer, a bench-top imager and a bench-top spectrograph. The goal is to characterize scattering, diffraction, reflectivity and throughput of DMDs, both in isolation (reflectometer), and when using in a instrumentlike setup (imager/spectrograph). We aim at achieving significant progress toward a Technology Readiness Level that will make DMDs a viable alternative to micro shutter arrays (MSAs) for NASA explorer, probe or even flagship class missions.
JWST Optical Simulation Testbed (JOST)
The JWST Optical Simulation Testbed (JOST) is a tabletop experiment to simulate the main aspects of wavefront sensing and control (WFS&C) for a segmented space telescope, including both commissioning and maintenance. JOST has an optical design using three aspheric lenses that reproduces the physics of JWST's three-mirror anastigmat. A segmented deformable mirror stands in for the segmented primary. The optical system provides equivalent sampling and image quality as a JWST NIRCam module, but at HeNe wavelength. With 59 degrees of freedom, we can implement many commissioning activities such as phase retrieval algorithm validation studies with a hexagonally segmented DM, test validation of pupil imaging lens concepts and designs, investigate field-dependence (multiple field point sensing and control), test wavefront control software, and train and develop staff expertise. (Adapted from Egron et al., 2017)
Design and Theory
We play an active part in the Segmented Coronagraph Design and Analysis (SCDA), a technical study organized by the Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP) that seeks to understand the working capability of various coronagraph designs with segmented and obscured telescope apertures, in support of possible future mission concepts being studied by NASA in preparation for the 2020 Decadal Survey. The overall goal is to image terrestrial analogues in the habitable zone of nearby stars. The results of the SCDA effort has directly informed the mission concept study being carried out by the LUVOIR Science and Technology Definition Team. The apodized pupil Lyot coronagraph (APLC) is one of several coronagraph design families that SCDA has assessed, in particular the recent hybrids replacing graded-transmission apodizers with binary-transmission shaped pupils. (Adapted from St.Laurent et al., 2018)
For more information about the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory, please contact Rémi Soummer.