EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 483, Number 1, May III 2008
Page(s) 365 - 369
Section Astronomical instrumentation
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20077830
Published online 11 March 2008

A&A 483, 365-369 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20077830

Stabilising a nulling interferometer using optical path difference dithering

P. Gabor1, B. Chazelas1, F. Brachet2, M. Ollivier1, M. Decaudin1, S. Jacquinod1, A. Labèque1, and A. Léger1

1  Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France
    e-mail: pavel.gabor@ias.u-psud.fr
2  Centre National d'Études Spatiales, 3140 Toulouse Cedex 9, France

(Received 9 May 2007 / Accepted 20 February 2008)

Context. Nulling interferometry has been suggested as the underlying principle for the Darwin and TPF-I exoplanet research missions.
Aims. There are constraints both on the mean value of the nulling ratio, and on its stability. Instrument instability noise is most detrimental to the stability of the nulling performance.
Methods. We applied a modified version of the classical dithering technique to the optical path difference in the scientific beam.
Results. Using only this method, we repeatedly stabilised the dark fringe for several hours. This method alone sufficed to remove the 1/f component of the noise in our setup for periods of 10 min, typically. These results indicate that performance stability may be maintained throughout the long-duration data acquisitions typical of exoplanet spectroscopy.
Conclusions. We suggest that further study of possible stabilisation strategies should be an integral part of Darwin/TPF-I research and development.

Key words: technique: interferometric -- instrumentation: spectrographs -- space vehicles: instruments -- methods: laboratory

© ESO 2008