Doctorate in Applied and Engineering Physics  

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Thesis Proposal for the

Doctorate Program in Applied and Engineering Physics (DAEPHYS)

Starting in the Academic Year 2016/2017

Proposal 019

Title:All-reflective optical designs to ultraprecise 21st century differential Space As-trometry missions: from Dark Matter to Habitable Exo-Earths
Objectives (recommended length: 2000-3000 char):
The aim of the PhD is to develop all reflective optical designs, up to four surfaces, to enable nano-arcsecond level differential astrometry to be performed from Space.

In order to do so a detailed comprehension of all the optical and opto-mechanical issues that might arise, due to the necessary structural elements that are necessary to support the optical design, need to be considered. These include: thermoelastic effects of the structure and of the optical surfaces, production problems, structure outgassing and thermal stabilization in the Space environment, geometrical (e.g. aberrations) and physical (e.g. diffraction, chromaticity) optical propagation effects and their evolution due to the space environment and the mission operation.

Measuring the position of the different optical elements in the system to a high level of accuracy is also required and laser metrology systems will be investigated in the Ph.D. work.
The PhD candidate is expected to first study fully analytical approaches to optical design of anastigmatic telescopes restricted to classical aespherical conic section surfaces and up to four powered mirrors. He will then create detailed computer models of some designs, to study the astrometric impact of all the possible deformations and to perform trade-off analyses of the designs. These computer simulated optical de-signs will consider, in addition to conic sections, also free-form surfaces.
The PhD candidate will develop all the relevant tools for data analysis using state-of-the art statistical and data analysis languages, such as R and Python. All optical simulations will be performed using the Zemax suite.
The tolerance and pixel stability parameters of the different optical solutions are used to provide the requirements of the required laser metrology systems.
The most suitable metrology implementation option for space usage will be prototyped and characterized in the laboratory.
The outcomes of this PhD theme are expected to also benefit any Earth-based or Space-based astrometric telescope, but this PhD will be fully integrated in a large collaboration, of more than a hundred researchers spread throughout Europe, that was set up to create a new space mission proposal to ESA.
A space mission that will tackle two central questions in modern Astrometry: Dark Matter and Habitable Exo-Earths.
Accordingly, the PhD candidate will have a truly unique opportunity to work in a exciting environment and to help designing a breakthrough European space mission project since the mission earlier stages.
Framework (recommended length: 500-2000 char):
Astrometry is fundamental to all areas of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and space Astrometry has been a truly unique European expertise, with the ESA/HIPPARCOS mission in the 80-90’s and with the present day ESA/Gaia mission. The existence of further space astrometry missions, especially to probe terrestrial planets, is also already recognized at the ESA long-term plan, the ESA Cosmic Vision. The present PhD project is expected to develop and study key optical concepts to enable these future missions.
Nano-arcsecond differential Astrometry in large field-of-views is a key to discover important information about the nature of Dark Matter in the Universe and also to be able to detect unambiguously and without any biases effects, habitable planets like our own Earth around the most nearby Sun-like stars. This will also enable mankind to probe the most extreme states of matter inside Neutron, and if they are out there, Quark, stars.
The European astronomical community is organizing at the moment an answer to the next ESA medium sized mission call, the ESA-M5, to propose to the agency the next Space Astrometry mission -- to fly eight years after the end of the agency’s present day Astrometry probe, Gaia. In this context, CENTRA-SIM has been developing the initial concept of the Korsch Three Mirror Anastigmatic telescope that will be at the centre of the scientific payload, and CENTRA/SIM is also characterizing the possible impacts that the optics deformations might have in the final Astrometry performed by the mission -- and thus in the measurements of the Dark Matter clumps, gravitational effects and also in the detection of the Exo-Earths.
The thesis advisor is the Responsible for the instrument pay-load design, and the thesis co-advisor is the Co-Principal Investigator for this new astro-metric mission for the upcoming ESA M5 call.
Tasks (recommended length: 1000-3000 char):
1- Review the literature on fully reflective on axis and off axis optical system designs and implement an analytical tool for the first steps of design optimization. Depart from the on axis Korsch three mirror configuration.
2- Implement an analytical configuration tool to generate the templates of optical design. Implement in zemax a selected group of configurations to be evaluated.
3- Develop all the relevant tools for data analysis using state-of-the art statistical and data analysis languages, such as R and Python.
4- Implement the main features space "oriented" mechanical designs that would be possible with these solutions.
5- Compute the optical tolerances and relate them with the structural elements deformation and thermal stress. In particular, the tolerance and pixel stability parameters of the different optical solutions will provide the requirements of the required laser metrology systems.
6- Design and manufacture a laser metrology demonstration board with the key simplified ingredients to demonstrate the concept for space usage.
7- Analyze the data, write publications.
8- Write the thesis.

Research centre/lab or R&D unit hosting the thesis project:
CENTRA-SIM and Faculdade de Ciencias da Universidade de Lisboa
University to which the thesis project will be presented:
FC/UL - Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa
DAEPHYS Scientific Domain in which the project fits:
Optical technology
Relation of the project to the Scientific Domains of DAEPHYS:
Optical Technologies are central to the DAEPHYS scientific domains. The challenges posed by future high accuracy angular measurement of star positions in the space environment push the optical and mechanical designs of telescope systems to new levels of development.
Sub micro-arcsecond resolution optical systems are not only fundamental to the future of astrometry in space but could also lead to developments that will have implications on optical measurement systems for engineering usage. Advanced laser metrology is also a highly reusable technology for engineering devices.
Candidate profile:
A motivated student which feels at ease developing numerical applications and simulations. The candidate will also be involved in doing experimental work in the laboratory.
Knowledge of optics is beneficial although the techniques of numerical optical design will be taught during the course. Interest for astrophysics and space programs is also positive.
Does this proposal involve more than one University?:
Synergies between the two Universities participating in the proposal:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects in co-supervision by researchers from two of the universities participating in the Program. In this field, explain the benefits resulting from the proposed co-supervision and the involvement of elements from the two universities, e.g. building critical mass teams, profiting from existing infrastructures or advanced equipments, profiting from expert technical know-how, etc. If the proposal involves only one University, write n/a.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)
Does this proposal involve a company?:
Proposals involving a company:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects involving a company, preferably a high-tech company. These proposals have to: 1) be centered on a technological problem in which the partner company has been (or plan / would like to be) involved; 2) have a co-supervisor on the enterprise; 3) include part of the project to be carried out in the company.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)



Name:Antonio Amorim
Institution:Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa and CENTRA
link to CV or indication of ORCID ID:­0003­0638­2321



Name:Alberto Krone Martins
Institution:Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
link to CV or indication of ORCID ID:


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