News | July 27, 2022

Bright Ideas — "Agility" Key To Industry Success In 2022, Space X Announces NASA Contract From SPIE Astro


It seems supply chain and worker shortages have plagued many industries, and optics and photonics have not gone unscathed. According to Optica, as it reflects on the first half of 2022, the industry’s secret to sustainment as a relatively stable industry is its agility. For Optica, that means sourcing parts for a variety of suppliers, adapting to vertical markets as their demands ebb and flow amid the effects of global political alliances and economies. The society also reflects wage and price increases as inflation’s impacts widen.

Straight from the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2022 conference and exhibition are a handful of space-related developments. The Gemini South telescope in Chile boosted its performance with the addition of the Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST). The optical-IR telescope now has improved capabilities to see “chemical footprints of distant planetary systems” and “the formation and evolution of galaxies.” One such observation is that of the chemically complex star HD 222925. Space X also got some good news when it earned a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to launch the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope, slated for launch in October 2026. The Roman Space Telescope’s mission is to determine the effects of dark matter and dark energy, as well as explore exoplanets. Finally, Teledyne Princeton Instruments introduced its deep-cooled, back side-illuminated COSMOS camera designed for “orbital object tracking, exoplanet characterization, and time-domain astronomy.”

A few weeks back, NASA released the much-anticipated first images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Now, it’s adding to our collective wonderment by declaring that the images could represent the oldest known galaxy in the universe. Known as GLASS-z13, the galaxy is believed to date back 13.5 billion years — or roughly 300 million years after the Big Bang. Researchers aren’t ready to say for sure and need further analysis to be certain.

Jewelry and other accessories aren’t typically top of mind when you think of cutting edge photonic and optical advancements. But nearly a decade after its first iteration, Google is back with a new pair of  AR/VR glasses. This prototype, as demoed in a recent video, can translate spoken language in real time to appear as text in a wearer’s field of view, something akin to closed captioning for TV. Google is notably “taking it slow” this time around and is currently testing its specs on employees and a small group of testers.

Also more functional than fashionable is a new necklace with the ability to track glucose levels in sweat. Researchers at The Ohio State University developed a necklace that measures the change in glucose levels from a person’s sweat after drinking a sugary drink during exercise. The team says sweat is ripe with biomarkers that one day could be used to help identify disease, infection, and even emotional trauma. For now, they are looking to further hone the sensor’s sensitivity and make it smaller, in the hopes it could one day become implantable.

Finally, a NIST researcher has figured out a new way to see around corners and walls using curved mirrors and indium phosphide transistors to reflect and amplify submillimeter wavelengths (300 micrometers to 1 millimeter). The method overcomes the hurdles of identifying an object outside direct line of sight by swapping invisible light in the place of visible light, which despite bouncing of seemingly smooth surfaces (like doors and walls), is much too scattered to provide reliable data. The research may eventually have implications in reconnaissance and surveillance, search and rescue operations, and autonomous driving.