The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provided funding to allow the UK ATC to lead on the NIX imager, with key mechanisms provided by ETH-Zurich and high-contrast imaging components from Leiden.
Named after the Greek goddess of the night, NIX is a state-of-the-art, infra-red, cryogenic camera system developed with ground-breaking high-contrast imaging technology, that allows astronomers to acquire images
which are even sharper and more detailed than those of the famous Hubble Space
Despite being only the size of a suitcase (about 0.8m x 0.4m x 0.6m), NIX manages to pack a lot of functionality into a very small space. Allowing astronomers to capture pin-sharp images with a range of filters and instrument set-ups, including some remarkable new high-contrast imaging optics that will deliver images of young exoplanets.
Young newly-formed planets are still hot, with temperatures similar to that of a candle flame, about 3-5µm – which is why NIX has been specially designed to image at these wavelengths.
NIX and all of its components need to work at temperatures colder than many instruments, at around -200°C (or 70K), to mitigate for thermal radiation. To block out the glare from stars, NIX has been designed with a sophisticated system of light blocks, baffles and anti-reflective coatings; as well as high-contrast imaging technology.
Find out more about ERIS and Nix.