Capturing exoplanets digitally is not an easy task. The light of the star that is near them, the distance, the rotation … there are many variables that must be taken into account, which is why it is necessary to have cameras specially designed for that subject.
That’s why a new camera has now been unveiled to allow astronomers to take images of high-contrast exoplanets, planets that orbit stars outside of our solar system.
The system is called NIX, and it has infrared capabilities that allow it to capture the highest contrast images of such planets to date.
Created at the UK Center for Astronomy Technology, has been provisionally accepted by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, where all the different parts of the enhanced resolution imager and spectrograph are being brought together.
NIX works in extremely cold temperatures, around -200 degrees Celsius, which is why it is called a cryo chamber. It is necessary to mitigate thermal radiation.
In addition to that, to block the glare from nearby exoplanets stars, the camera system has different optical elements and mirrors, including deflectors and anti-reflective coatings, for photographing young planets.
Everything has been designed almost in miniature, so much so that the camera is roughly the size of a carry-on, necessary to be accurate and stable in such low temperatures.
NIX will be sent to be part of one of the most advanced optical telescopes in the world: the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, and it will be operational from 2022.