Status of NASA's stellar astrometry testbeds for exoplanet detection: Science and technology overview

Eduardo Bendek, Matthew Noyes, Catalina Flores, Ruslan Belikov, Dan Sirbu, Camilo Mejia Prada, Peter Tuthill, Olivier Guyon

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

2 Scopus citations


Accurate measurement of exoplanetary masses is a critical step in addressing key aspects of NASA's science vision. Measuring masses of Earth-analogs around FGK stars out to 10 pc requires sub-microarcsecond astrometric accuracy, which is not within the capabilities of current instrumentation. Thus, new technology will be required to build an astrometric instrument capable of achieving such performance. This will immediately empower the possibility for dedicated astrometric missions, and perhaps most enticing, it will enable astrometric observing modes to be added (with relatively low cost and impact) to any mission boasting a sufficiently stable direct imaging platform. In this paper, we provide an overview of the scientific goals and technology utilized on two of NASA's astrometry testbeds dedicated to advancing stellar astrometry for exoplanet detection. The first one, located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is dedicated to imaging stellar astrometry on sparse fields. The goal of this testbed is to mature the Diffractive Pupil (DP) technology to TRL-5, demonstrating high-fidelity performance in a relevant environment. This testbed operates in a vacuum tank at the High Contrast Imaging Testbed (HCIT) at JPL. The second testbed, located at NASA Ames Research Center, is dedicated to advancing narrow angle relative astrometry to detect exoplanets around nearby binary stars. The key technology in this testbed is a DP specially designed to measure the angle between two sources on the sky. This testbed operates in air and aims to bring this technology to TRL-4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2020
Subtitle of host publicationOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
EditorsMakenzie Lystrup, Marshall D. Perrin
ISBN (Electronic)9781510636736
StatePublished - 2020
EventSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2020: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Dec 14 2020Dec 22 2020

Publication series

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


ConferenceSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2020: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online


  • Astrometry
  • Diffractive pupil
  • Distortion calibration
  • Exoplanet detection
  • Exoplanet masses

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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