A project in the UMass Lowell, The Planet Imaging
Coronagraphic Technology Using a Reconfigurable
Experimental Base mission (PICTURE-B) is a NASA
sounding rocket mission to directly measure
optical light scattered by the debris disk around
Epsilon-Eri, a nearby K2V-type star, 3.2 parsecs
(10.5 light years) from Earth, with the relatively
young age of approximately 1 billion years.
PICTURE-B consists of a 0.5 meter telescope and
visible nulling coronograph instrument (a
"nuller") to attenuate the overwhelmingly bright
light from a star, while enabling dim light from
material around the star to reach the science
camera. The electronics section on PICTURE-B
includes three networked computers, controlling
the nuller, the science and wavefront sensing
cameras and the fine pointing system. In the
future, PICTURE-B can be reconfigured for extended
balloon born observations of fainter, more
distant, debris disks.
While PICTURE-B's scientific objectives are
spectacular, its technology objectives are equally
important impact. By demonstrating a visible
nulling coronograph and a deformable mirror in the
space environment, PICTURE-B will significantly
advance the broader goal of direct imaging of
The PICTURE-B nuller was previously launched on a
NASA sounding rocket from White Sands Missile
Range in Oct. 2011 as the PICTURE mission,
successfully demonstrating flight-worthiness and
the fine steering technology. The remarkable fine
steering control, required by the PICTURE-B
mission and future missions to image exoplanets,
kept the telescope pointed at the star Rigel to
within a few millions of a degree (see
Mendillo et al. 2012a ). Unfortunately, the
science telemetry channel failed in-flight and no
science data was received. The payload was
successfully recovered and the ultra-low-expansion
glass primary mirror did not survive re-entry and
landing. The PICTURE-B payload will re-fly the
original PICTURE nuller and fine steering system,
while incorporating a new silicon carbide primary
mirror. For a more detailed description of the
PICTURE payload, see Mendillo et al 2012, "PICTURE:
a Sounding Rocket Experiment for Direct Imaging
of an Extrasolar Planetary Environment."
PICTURE-B related publications:
- C. B. Mendillo, B. A. Hicks, T. A. Cook, T.
G. Bifano, D. A. Content, B. F. Lane, B. M.
Levine, D. Rabin, S. R. Rao, R. Samuele, E.
Schmidtlin, M. Shao, J. K. Wallace, S.
Chakrabarti, 2012. "PICTURE:
a Sounding Rocket Experiment for Direct
Imaging of an Extrasolar Planetary
Environment." Proc. SPIE (September 21).
- C. B. Mendillo, S. Chakrabarti, T. A. Cook,
B. A. Hicks, and B. F. Lane, 2012, "Flight
demonstration of a milliarcsecond pointing
system for direct exoplanet imaging,"
Appl. Opt. 51, 7069-7079
- S. R. Rao, J. K. Wallace, R. Samuele, S.
Chakrabarti, T. A. Cook, B. A. Hicks, P. G.
Jung, B. F. Lane, B. M. Levine, C. B. Mendillo,
E. Schmidtlin, M. Shao, and J. B. Stewart, 2008,
length control in a nulling coronagraph with a
MEMS deformable mirror and a calibration
interferometer," Proc. SPIE 6888.