The next generation of telescopes currently under construction are vastly larger than any previously built. While their monumental size will allow astronomers to peer deeper into space, a fundamental scaling law means that instrumentation used by astronomers on these telescopes dramatically increases in both size and cost. This imposes an immediate obstacle for the next generation of instrumentation, and in particular spectroscopic instruments, which are used extensively in the hunt for habitable Earth-like planets in distant solar systems. Furthermore, exoplanet astronomy places extreme requirements on spectrograph performance in terms of exceptionally high resolution and stability. Constructing conventional spectrographs in this parameter space has led to spiralling costs and complexity, and proved to be the primary limiting factor for the field. Integrated on-chip photonics can potentially provide an unparalleled improvement in spectrograph sensitivity and stability. However, until now, such devices have not been deployed and tested on telescopes with sufficiently high coupling to demonstrate the advantage over competing bulk-optic state-of-the-art instruments.

© 2015 IEEE

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