Title: Technologies to image other worlds
Abstract: In this presentation I will talk about the search for life using imaging telescopes in space. This is an ambitious goal that astronomers have been pursuing for decades, and, as the old adage says, “we have never been so close!”. I will attempt to support this statement. I will first discuss the mathematical and numerical formulations associated with the design of custom optical elements that maximize dynamic range and angular resolution of astronomical telescopes. Recent results have shown that, in theory, that is assuming that all optics can be aligned to an infinite precision, one can indeed design instruments sensitive to habitable planets under a wide variety of telescope architectures. I will then highlight how Adaptive Optics has been able to stabilize images from eight-meter class ground based telescope, in the middle of very turbulent environments. This has enabled astronomers to obtain precise measurements of exoplanet’s atmospheric composition, shedding unprecedented light on the formation pathways of Jupiter analogs. I will move on to present result from our group that illustrate how Adaptive Optics inspired methods can applied to a space telescope and compensate for minuscule, yet impactful, misalignments and thus maintain contrasts congruent with earth-analog detection and spectroscopy. I will place this work both in the context of the recently launch James Webb Space Telescope and future NASA missions. Finally I will discuss how the ongoing Astro-photonics revolution might radically change the way we think about detecting life on extra-solar planets.
About the speaker: Laurent Pueyo is an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, in Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his doctorate from Princeton University in 2008 and conducted his post-doctoral work as a NASA Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and as a Sagan Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on imaging faint planets around nearby stars. He has pioneered advanced data analysis methods that are now standard tools used to study extrasolar planets, and developed wavefront control techniques that are now baselined for future NASA missions.
His research is aimed at understanding our place in the universe using comparative exoplanetogy. The two key questions he is focusing on are i) the formation history of giant planets and ii) the design of future experiments that will identify biomarkers on the surface of temperate earth analogs. In practice, he investigates a broad range of observational and instrumentation problems aimed at opening key diagnostics windows pertaining to these science themes.