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Demonstration of a near-IR line-referenced electro-optical laser frequency comb for precision radial velocity measurements in astronomy

  • Author(s): Yi, X
  • Vahala, K
  • Li, J
  • Diddams, S
  • Ycas, G
  • Plavchan, P
  • Leifer, S
  • Sandhu, J
  • Vasisht, G
  • Chen, P
  • Gao, P
  • Gagne, J
  • Furlan, E
  • Bottom, M
  • Martin, EC
  • Fitzgerald, MP
  • Doppmann, G
  • Beichman, C
  • et al.
Abstract

An important technique for discovering and characterizing planets beyond our solar system relies upon measurement of weak Doppler shifts in the spectra of host stars induced by the influence of orbiting planets. A recent advance has been the introduction of optical frequency combs as frequency references. Frequency combs produce a series of equally spaced reference frequencies and they offer extreme accuracy and spectral grasp that can potentially revolutionize exoplanet detection. Here we demonstrate a laser frequency comb using an alternate comb generation method based on electro-optical modulation, with the comb centre wavelength stabilized to a molecular or atomic reference. In contrast to mode-locked combs, the line spacing is readily resolvable using typical astronomical grating spectrographs. Built using commercial off-the-shelf components, the instrument is relatively simple and reliable. Proof of concept experiments operated at near-infrared wavelengths were carried out at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Keck-II telescope.

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