Improving Experimental Variation in Optical Testing Enclosure
The goal of NASA’s future Habitable World Observatory is to find earth-like exoplanets with space telescopes. However, a nearby star’s light can outshine the exoplanet making the exoplanet hard to see. Therefore, a star’s light must be masked. STScI has created HiCAT (High-contrast imager for Complex Aperture Telescopes) to mask a star’s light. HiCAT uses a laser to simulate incoming starlight. This laser must be extremely stable, but testing conditions ( humidity, turbulence, vibration) create undesirable laser beam propagation.
Our goals are as follows:
1. Identify & reduce vibration sources causing experimental error
2. Create a closed-loop humidity-controlled environment
3. Redesign HiCAT’s top panel & cable paths to decrease airflow out of the HiCAT enclosure
4. Install a sub-enclosure to isolate the laser path from turbulent airflow