The Pyxis Space Interferometer Prototype

The Pyxis project aims to develop a 2-telscope ground based interferometer where instead of fixed telescopes and a moving delay line (e.g. CHARA and VLTI), the telescopes themselves move. This is the same configuration that is needed for a space interfeometer, but it has never been prototyped on the ground before. Most of the technologies needed for this are readily available today, including accurate and affordable MEMS accelerometers, robotic components and fiber-optic beam combination. The subsystems you could be part of or lead include:

  • Coarse 6-axis mechanical control, i.e. the robotics of the system.
  • Coarse metrology, i.e. dead reckononing cameras that look at flashing LEDs to determine the position of all elements to within a ~cm range.
  • Fine metrology using interfeometric techniques.
  • Tip/tilt adaptive optics and active pupil alignment (i.e. a fast control system).
  • The astrophysical beam combiner and polarimetric spectrograph. 

Most sub-projects will involve a significant amount of laboratory work, some simulation work. As the project develops, testing and characterising the instrument in the evenings at Mt Stromlo Observatory will be critical.