BLINC: A testbed for nulling interferometry in the thermal infrared

Philip Hinz, Roger Angel, Nick Woolf, Bill Hoffmann, Don McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


A key technology in NASA's plans for a Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) is nulling interferometry in the thermal infrared. This technique suppresses the overwhelming light from a star in order to study its immediate surroundings. To further develop nulling interferometry we have built the BracewelL Infrared Nulling Cryostat (BLINC). The instrument is designed to achieve high precision cancellation of an artificial source in the lab and of starlight on the telescope. Our goal is to achieve suppression of >10,000 both with a laser source and a broadband source over a 20% bandwidth. This is sufficient for ground-based observations with even short baseline interferometers since the finite diameter of the star does not allow suppression greater than that for most nearby sources. BLINC uses two parts of the MMT pupil to create an interferometer of 2.7 m diameter elements separated by 4 m. Active compensation for phase variations between the two apertures will be used to maintain the cancellation of the starlight in the presence of atmospheric turbulence. When combined with the adaptive secondary of the MMT to remove high order aberrations, BLINC will be able to achieve suppression of 10,000. This will allow detection of zodiacal dust around nearby stars as faint as 10 times the solar level and detection of companions large than 10 Jupiter masses for systems less than one billion years old. BLINC serves as a prototype for nulling with the Large Binocular Telescope which will be able to see zodiacal dust as faint as solar level and Jupiter mass or larger companions. Thus both in technological and scientific background BLINC will help begin the search for Earth-like planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-353
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Volume4006 (I)
StatePublished - 2000
EventInterferometry in Optical Astronomy - Munich, Ger
Duration: Mar 27 2000Mar 29 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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