The exact nature of the planetary formation process remains a major unresolved issue in our understanding of the universe. To better inform the international debate needs direct observation of the process. The small separation between potentially earth like planets and their host star and the huge difference in light emission mean that direct observation can best be accomplished in the MIR around 4 microns (where the contrast is better) using nulling interferometry to obtain sufficient resolution and to cancel out the host star's light. The quest for earth like planets in distant systems also faces the exactly the same challenge, and additionally needs to operate in the 10 micron region to look for the ozone spectral feature. Accomplishing this with a meaningful number of baselines or telescopes using bulk optics is essentially an impossible task. Using planar integrated photonics (like the very recent GRAVITY detection in the NIR), this becomes feasible.
Two projects are available, The first focusses on photonic device research (innovative design and leading edge fabrication at RSP), and the second on cunning nulling archtectures and ingeneous control systems to lock them (at RSAA). The end goal is to build and test such systems on sky on a large ground based telscope such as Subaru in a five year time frame.
Be the first to make it happen using planar integrated chalcogenide MIR devices!