This article has an erratum: [erratum]
Volume 561, January 2014
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Published online||21 January 2014|
Beating the diffraction limit in astronomy via quantum cloning
Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
Received: 13 September 2013
Accepted: 19 December 2013
Context. The diffraction limit is considered as the absolute boundary for the angular resolution of a telescope. Non-linear optical processes, however, allow the diffraction limit to be beaten non-deterministically.
Aims. We examine the possibility of overcoming the diffraction limit of a telescope through photon cloning processes, heralded by trigger events. Whilst perfect cloning is ruled out by quantum mechanics, imperfect cloning is attainable and can beat the diffraction limit on a reduced fraction of photons.
Methods. We suggest to insert a layer of excited atoms in a pupil plane of the telescope. When a photon from the astronomical source passes the pupil, it stimulates the emission of identical photons by the excited atoms. The set of photons arrives on a coincidence detector, and the average position of simultaneously arriving photons is recorded. The contribution of spontaneous emissions is minimized by use of a trigger signal, implemented via a quantum-non-demolition measurement.
Results. The proposed set-up – an optical amplifier triggered by a quantum-non-demolition measurement – allows to beat the diffraction limit of a telescope, at the price of a loss in efficiency. The efficiency may, however, be compensated for through increased exposure times.
Conclusions. The main conclusion is the possibility in principle to improve the angular resolution of a telescope beyond the diffraction limit and thus to achieve high-angular resolutions with moderately sized telescopes.
Key words: telescopes / instrumentation: high angular resolution
© ESO, 2014
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