Modal noise in optical fibers imposes limits on the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) and velocity precision achievable with the next generation of astronomical spectrographs. This is an increasingly pressing problem for precision radial velocity spectrographs in the near-infrared (NIR) and optical that require both high stability of the observed line profiles and high S/N. Many of these spectrographs plan to use highly coherent emission-line calibration sources like laser frequency combs and Fabry-Perot etalons to achieve precision sufficient to detect terrestrial-mass planets. These high-precision calibration sources often use single-mode fibers or highly coherent sources. Coupling light from single-mode fibers to multi-mode fibers leads to only a very low number of modes being excited, thereby exacerbating the modal noise measured by the spectrograph. We present a commercial off-the-shelf solution that significantly mitigates modal noise at all optical and NIR wavelengths, and which can be applied to spectrograph calibration systems. Our solution uses an integrating sphere in conjunction with a diffuser that is moved rapidly using electrostrictive polymers, and is generally superior to most tested forms of mechanical fiber agitation. We demonstrate a high level of modal noise reduction with a narrow bandwidth 1550 nm laser. Our relatively inexpensive solution immediately enables spectrographs to take advantage of the innate precision of bright state-of-the art calibration sources by removing a major source of systematic noise.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science