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Laser Frequency Comb in Astronomy Research

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Laser Quantum Laser Frequency CombAnswering fundamental questions in astronomy, such as the expanding universe theory, depend on the possibility of measuring the slow drift of cosmological redshifts which are inherent in any evolving universe. Such observations require very high accuracy in the measured spectrograms since the expected redshifts are exceedingly small. A correct interpretation of the measured absorption and emission lines in a spectrogram is hindered by missing calibration sources throughout the measured spectrograms. Here, laser frequency combs (LFCs), with their evenly distributed, stable comb lines, act as a very stable, reproducible calibration tool for astronomers.

Since May 2016, Heriot-Watt University in Scotland has employed a LFC in the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), South Africa. The LFC is derived from a Laser Quantum ultrafast laser running at 1 GHz repetition rate which is pumped by its industry-leading finesse pump laser. The laser delivers up to 1.8 W of average power at 1 GHz, with optical pulse durations as short as 15 fs. SALT is the largest, single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. The high resolution spectrograph at SALT covers the visible spectrum from 370 nm to 890 nm, and is used to analyse the colour content of distant stars and galaxies. Now, with use of the LFC, these colours can be measured with even greater precision.

Laser Quantum has launched a complete frequency comb system, the taccor comb, an extension to the successful taccor family. The taccor comb comes with stabilised repetition rate and carrier-envelope offset frequency, and extends the turn-key and long-term stable operation of the 1 GHz taccor to frequency comb applications.

To find out more about the taccor comb, please visit Laser Quantum’s booth, #311 at Photonics West between 28 January and 2 February or click here.


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