Doctoral Student Develops Star Generator

Doctoral Student Develops Star Generator

Star Generator

By Katie Malatino

September 16, 2022

In July, Rensselaer doctoral student Leaf Swordy presented a poster at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation conference in Montreal, Canada. With the guidance of Heidi Jo Newberg, Professor in the Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, and Thomas Ditto, Visiting Researcher in Astrophysics, Swordy developed a “Star Generator” capable of simulating a dense star field.

Swordy used a Texas Instruments DLP4710 micromirror array placed at the focal point of a 30-inch parabolic mirror. The DLP array has 2,000,000 small, single micron-sized mirrors that can be positioned individually. The mirrors acted as pinholes in the focal plane of a large collimating mirror, resulting in collimated light of coherence length on the order of the reflector. This allowed the formation of 2,000,000 point-like light sources that are fully programmable.

The Star Generator is capable of producing highly complex, spatially coherent, arbitrary light fields that can mimic light from the sky. The Star Generator will make it possible to test new telescope designs, including space telescopes, in laboratories at Rensselaer.

To save on costs, Swordy used repurposed optics and DLP chipset.


For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit