Workshop on Photonic Technologies for Astronomy

The Société Française d'Astronomie & d'Astrophysique (SF2A) recently hosted a dedicated workshop on Photonic Technologies for Astronomy, as part of the Semaine de l'astrophysique française 2021. French scientists have played a pioneering role in adapting and utilising photonic technologies to push the boundaries of astronomical instrumentation, using it to do truly ground-breaking (and Nobel Prize-winning) science. The workshop brought together astronomers from all over France to highlight the tremendous impact photonics are having on modern astronomy and space science, and to showcase some exciting new developments in the field. Some of the talks presented unique and exciting concepts, such as the wavelength conversion of starlight using sum-frequency generation in nonlinear crystals; the use of photonics for intensity interferometry; and curved detector arrays for wide-field telescopes.

A key topic of interest for astronomers was the detection and study of exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system), where the use of integrated photonic circuitry is providing high-resolution and high-contrast measurements needed to measure such faint light through the turbulent atmosphere. These included novel devices in visible wavelengths, NIR wavelengths familiar to telecommunications, and stretching far out to MIR wavelengths around 10um. Astronomers have also begun to explore the use of on-chip electro-optic and thermo-optic modulation to miniaturise some of the key components used on telescopes. The emerging field of Astrophotonics is moulding the flow of starlight in exciting and never before seen ways, using the best the photonics industry has to offer.