A Scalable Design Uses Commercial-off-the-Shelf Parts to Mimic the Results of Large Aperture Telescopes
This scalable design synthesizes multiple smaller, inexpensive telescopes to achieve the benefits of traditionally used large aperture telescopes at a significantly reduced cost. The design utilizes photonic technology to link the smaller telescopes into a cohesive whole, creating a replication of a large aperture telescope. Large apertures in telescopes are important in applications ranging from astrophysics to atmospheric sensing to intelligence (i.e. artificial satellite characterization) but are prohibitively expensive. Often, researchers must form large research collaborations to afford access to telescopes with sufficient apertures, and these programs can cost up to $1 billion or more. University of Florida researchers have developed a photonic synthesis design that will deliver many of the same results as a large aperture telescope at a fraction of the cost. With this design, most of the capabilities and benefits of large aperture telescopes can now be affordable to researchers at small colleges and major agencies such as the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Photonic synthesis provides benefits of large aperture telescopes without the large price
- Reduces costs by 80-95 percent, providing a significantly less expensive option for researchers and agencies
- Uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products, allowing for easily constructed modules
- Is particularly well-suited for spectroscopic and high time-resolution measurements, offering a broad field of use
The design uses commercial-off-the-shelf telescopes and combines them with a fiber optic-linked architecture, producing telescope collecting areas equivalent to standard telescopes with mirror diameters ranging from 0.9 meters to 40 meters. This scalable design consists of a “7-pack” of small commercial telescopes that are semi-autonomous in their pointing, tracking and focus control, and equipped with an autonomous acquisition/guiding system and a fiber-optic feed. The linked 7-pack output can be linked to other 7-packs into a hierarchical, scalable architecture that can match the aperture of a 2.5-meter telescope, the same class as the Hubble Space Telescope or the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope. The design is well suited for spectroscopic and high-time resolution measurements, astrophysics, atmospheric studies, remote sensing, and intelligence.