|Ian Parry's Home Page
Active Research Projects
Exoplanets and Observational Techniques
Chair of the Equality & Diversity Committee
University of Cambridge
Institute of Astronomy
Unfolding Space Telescopes for Astronomy and Earth Observations
I am the Principal Investigator (PI) for a research program to develop unfolding, self-aligning space telescopes.
In contrast, for Earth Observation (EO) there are already hundreds of telescopes in orbit looking down at the ground, although most of these are relatively small. For EO, unfolding telescopes offer significant cost reduction enabling affordable high definition imaging and on-demand imaging.
The idea of unfolding space telescopes is not new and there are significant technical challenges. Firstly, we need an innovative and reliable unfolding scheme. Secondly, we need to put the deployed optics in to precise alignment and then continuously maintain that alignment. These require a very precise metrology system, a set of high accuracy actuators and a sophisticated control system.
My research program started in 2017 and has so far received ~200k UKP in grant funding from STFC and UKSA. The main project stages are:
The pictures on the left show an 8U (20cm x 20cm x 20cm stowed) module for use as part of a 12U CubeSat. This unfolds to become a 0.9m telescope (upper image) which gives 30cm ground resolution for EO and 100 mas resolution for astronomy.
My collaborators in Cambridge are George Hawker (PhD student), Michael Johnson (visitor, PhD student at Imperial College), Richard Jakab (mechanical design engineer) and Karia Dibert (MASt student).
In July 2018 I was PI on a proposal summary to STFC in response to their call for Priority projects. The project was called "A 12U CubeSat (SUPERSHARP) for direct imaging of exoplanets"
|Searching for Evidence of Extra-Terrestial Life (the 763nm Oxygen bio-signature)
SUPER-SHARP: Space-based Unfolding Primary for Exoplanet Research via Spectroscopic High Angular Resolution Photography
This is the ultimate stage of the unfolding space telescope work described above - a telescope that can robustly search for extra-terrestial life. For details see the white paper, Parry et al 2018.
The pictures above show a concept for a 23.5m unfolding telescope that can fit into an Ariane 6 rocket. Each of the 4 mirrors in the cross-shaped primary is 10m x 2.8m. SUPER-SHARP will directly image and obtain spectroscopy of exoplanets. Its instrumentation includes active mirror control, a coronograph (to remove the light from the central star for exoplanet observations) and an integral field spectrograph (to give R=100 spectra for every pixel in the 2x2 arcsec field of view). The 23.5m mirror baseline gives an inner working angle (IWA) of 16 mas at 750nm with 8 mas spatial resolution and an IWA of just 2.7 mas at ultra-violet wavelengths.
The SUPER-SHARP design philosophy is to push extremely hard on spatial resolution and IWA while at the same time keeping within an affordable budget. SUPER-SHARP will therefore maximise primary mirror baseline, use the shortest possible operating wavelength and be pragmatic about everything else (number of instruments, field of view, thermal management, raw speckle contrast, etc.). Some mirror deployment strategies (i.e unfolding mechanisms) can achieve even greater baselines than 23m.
The mission's main science goals are:
Our latest paper on the white dwarf companion to HD114174 can be found here
We are currently assembling the 6 cameras in Cambridge.
MOONS description paper.
MOONS updated optical design paper.
This is the high resolution spectrograph for the European Extremely Large Telescope. Currently the project is in the conceptual design phase. There are numerous science drivers but the key ones are:
My HIRES collaborators in Cambridge are Roberto Maiolino, Didier Queloz, Martin Haehnelt, Max Pettini, Chris Haniff, David Buscher, Martin Fisher and David Sun.
My student (George Hawker) and I recently published a paper on how HIRES can be used to detect the oxygen 763nm bio-signature for Proxima b and other exoplanets orbiting nearby M-dwarfs. See Hawker and Parry, 2019.
Last updated on June 20th 2019.