DEWS: Revolutionary Fondecyt Project will allow the observation of exoplanets

DEWS – “DEep Wavefront Sensing: Optical computing approach for rapid, efficient wavefront sensors for extreme adaptive optics” is the Exploration Fondecyt Project 132202234 that will last for 3 years and got funding of US $300K for its development.

The project DEWS is directed by Esteban Vera, professor of PUCV’s School of Electrical Engineering and co-directed by professor Pablo Meza, from UFRO and has the collaboration of our Optoelectronics Laboratory team.

By 2030 Chile will have 2 out of the 3 Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) installed on Earth (GMT, EELT, TMT). This means that they have at least 25 meters in diameter and will concentrate more than 70% of the world’s astronomical observation capacity.

These ELTs will provide a great resolution, even to observe exoplanets. Nonetheless, the atmospheric turbulence that’s present even in places like the Atacama desert, keeps these telescopes from reaching their potential, making adaptive optics techniques crucial to achieve this.

DEWS project was purposed to give adaptive optics the highest possible sensitivity, measuring and compensating even the slightest atmosphere fluctuations, achieving the caption of sharp images of the cosmos and of near objects that surround us.

The idea is to develop, implement, and test novel wavefront sensors based on optical computation, which is nothing more than computing at the speed of light. In this way, the AO systems will be able to measure and correct the atmospheric turbulence without the need for a complicated and long computational process, that is the way that the actual systems work.

This is how the AO systems will not only be cheaper and simpler but also allow the ELTs to obtain the desired exoplanet images and permit smaller telescopes to be able to identify space junk that is in our sky. The development of DEWS will also highlight our country, Chile, as a leader in development of novel astronomical and spacial tech.

Edit: Professor Esteban Vera explained this project in further detail in an interview in Spanish given to UCV TV, you can check it out right here.