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NSF Funds Improvements to Keck Interferometer

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2007
The W.M. Keck Observatory in Kamuela, Hawaii, has received a three-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation of Arlington, Va., to enhance the sensitivity and resolution of the Keck interferometer. The improvements will enable the instrument to detect planets of a certain size around other stars and to test predictions of Einstein’s theory of relativity in the core of our galaxy. The 85-m baseline interferometer combines the light from the two 10-mm-diameter Keck telescopes. The grant funds the installation of a phase- referencing system on the interferometer, allowing longer exposures and resulting in the detection of fainter objects. It also enables an upgrade of the instrument for performing accurate measurements of a star’s position.


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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