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

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

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


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 enticingly, it will enable astrometric observing modes to be added 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 NASA’s 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 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, and has demonstrated detection of signals of 1.58e-5 λ/D which is equivalent to 0.75 µas on Hubble. The second testbed, Is also located at JPL, but it is dedicated to advancing narrow angle relative astrometry to detect exoplanets around nearby binary stars. The key technology in this testbed is a diffractive pupil specially designed to measure the angle between two sources on the sky. This testbed operates in air now, but we are designing a new version of this testbed that will operate in vacuum with the goal of demonstrating sub-microarcsecond accuracy astrometric measurements between binary stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets XI
EditorsGarreth J. Ruane
ISBN (Electronic)9781510665743
StatePublished - 2023
EventTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets XI 2023 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 21 2023Aug 24 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering


ConferenceTechniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets XI 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • 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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