Extreme optics and the search for Earth-like planets

Robert J. Vanderbei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this paper I describe a new and exciting application of optimization technology. The problem is to design a space telescope capable of imaging Earth-like planets around nearby stars. Because of limitations inherent in the wave nature of light, the design problem is one of diffraction control so as to provide the extremely high contrast needed to image a faint planet positioned very close to its much brighter star. I will describe the mathematics behind the diffraction control problem and explain how modern optimization tools were able to provide unexpected solutions that actually changed NASA's approach to this problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-272
Number of pages18
JournalMathematical Programming
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • General Mathematics


  • Convex optimization
  • Fourier transform
  • High-contrast imaging
  • Linear programming
  • Nonlinear programming
  • Terrestrial planet finder


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