Poke: an open-source ray-based physical optics platform

Jaren N. Ashcraft, Ewan S. Douglas, Daewook Kim, A. J.E. Riggs, Ramya Anche, Trent Brendel, Kevin Derby, Brandon D. Dube, Quinn Jarecki, Emory Jenkins, Kian S. Milani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Integrated optical models allow for accurate prediction of the as-built performance of an optical instrument. Optical models are typically composed of a separate ray trace and diffraction model to capture both the geometrical and physical regimes of light. These models are typically separated across both open-source and commercial software that don’t interface with each other directly. To bridge the gap between ray trace models and diffraction models, we have built an open-source optical analysis platform in Python called Poke that uses commercial ray tracing APIs and open-source physical optics engines to simultaneously model scalar wavefront error, diffraction, and polarization. Poke operates by storing ray data from a commercial ray tracing engine into a Python object, from which physical optics calculations can be made. We present an introduction to using Poke, and highlight the capabilities of two new propagation modules that add to the utility of existing scalar diffraction models. Gaussian Beamlet Decomposition is a ray-based approach to diffraction modeling that allows us to integrate physical optics models with ray trace models to directly capture the influence of ray aberrations in diffraction simulations. Polarization Ray Tracing is a ray-based method of vector field propagation that can diagnose the polarization aberrations in optical systems. Poke has been recently used to study the next generation of astronomical observatories, including the ground-based Extremely Large Telescopes (TMT, GMT, ELT) and a 6 meter space telescope (6MST) early concept for NASA’s Habitable Worlds Observatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOptical Modeling and Performance Predictions XIII
EditorsMark A. Kahan
ISBN (Electronic)9781510665422
StatePublished - 2023
EventOptical Modeling and Performance Predictions XIII 2023 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 21 2023Aug 22 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceOptical Modeling and Performance Predictions XIII 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • Gaussian Beamlet Decomposition
  • Poke
  • Polarization Ray Tracing
  • Simulation
  • Thin films

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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