400mm Nikon lens to be modified at the ISS to capture photons sent from Earth


Another ISS related post: thespacereporter published an article today about a quantum entanglement experiment on the International Space Station that will involve modifying an existing Nikkor 400mm lens to capture photons sent from scientists on Earth (with the help of NightPOD):

"Under the proposal put forth by a group of European researchers, scientists on the ISS would modify an existing  Nikon 400 mm camera lens, aiming it back at Earth. The modified camera would then be equipped to receive entangle light particles, called photons, sent from scientists on Earth. One of the pair of entangled photons would then be transmitted nearly 250 miles to the ISS,  where scientists could compare the state of the photons. Once entangled, each photon should react to changes in the other’s quantum spin — if one switches from up-spin to down-spin, the other should hypothetically do the same, instantly and regardless of the distance between them."

Additional information is available at iop.org. The detailed scientific article can be found here:

"We propose performing quantum optics experiments in a ground-to-space scenario using the International Space Station, which is equipped with a glass viewing window and a photographer's lens mounted on a motorized camera pod. A dedicated small add-on module with single-photon detection, time-tagging and classical communication capabilities would enable us to perform the first-ever quantum optics experiments in space. We present preliminary design concepts for the ground and flight segments and study the feasibility of the intended mission scenario."

Thanks to Bill and everyone else who sent that in. Images credit: NASA, Nikon.

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  • jerre

    they should have used the 18-55mm kit lens. hahaha

  • Incredible. I wonder what changes have to be made to account for specific photons.

    • PhotonJoe

      Yeah, seriously — since ALL light are photons, its a bit odd to say they are changing a lens to capture “Earth Photons”. As far as I understand optics, any photon that passes through the glass is captured. Maybe they are adding a filter or polarizer or coating to help resist light (photons) coming from side angles?

      • lorenzo

        If photons have a light frequency, like IR or UV, the changes maybe in the lens focus. I would like to know more of this.

    • Juha Backman

      Reading the announcement, it seems that they are mounting a single-photon detector specific to the experiment to the lens, not using any off-the-shelf camera. Lens modifications might be very slight (basically, just propping the aperture wide open or to a specific value), the hard part is to build the detector to capture just the photons used in this experiment and measuring their polarization.

  • n11

    What camera? D800E?

    • lorenzo

      I am not aware they have one D800E on board of the ISS.
      So far I heard of a D3s and maybe a D4, not sure on the latter.

    • AlphaTed

      Definitely not D600, as it introduce dusts. :/

  • Fred Flintstone

    That cover photo is a bit too technical for me, please provide info in layman terms

    • They are taking pictures of science stuff.

      • FredBear


  • lorenzo

    Don’t think I understood all sentences completely but I tried.

  • As I understand the proposal the camera will be replaced by a detector that is able to detect single photons and polarization. The lens probably doesn’t need any modification.

    • JorPet

      The detector is probably not an F mount, so the “modification” could very likely be to allow it to connect to the detector.

  • Syd

    ‘Modify the lens’……

    Prolly just breathed on the front element!

  • http://liesthrualens.com

    In theory, they want to see what happens when you seperate two parts of a photon pair with a great distance. Quantum entaglement is where photos interact with each other, become part of a group so to speak. Once quantum entanglement occurs, all member photons of the same group act the same way, irrelevant of distance between them (in theory). What they want to do, is seperate these pairs of photons, sending one of them back to the ISS where it will be captured by this lens (and a photon detector) to see if it follows the same changes as the other photon which is miles away.

    This is related to the EPR paradox, which was a theoretical experient whereby members of a quantum group would all follow the same laws and rules – this will be an actual experiment of this.

    And no, I doubt they will use the 18-55m kit lens :).

    • FredBear

      Wow that’s spooky.
      And the lens has been modified to capture photons too.

      • http://liesthrualens.com

        well it will pass photons anyway, thats what it does. They will probably connect some form of photon detector to it, instead of the standard “camera” and sensor. I have no idea on how they will do this, but the theory dates back to Einsteins quibbles with quantum theory being incomplete.
        The thing is, photons can act as both particles and waves. This quantum entanglement suggests that they are acting as a wave, whereas standard tests show they act as particles. They are mainly trying to understand the level of quantum entanglement that photon pairs exert when seperated by large distances.

        • FredBear

          Sorry I was being facetious:
          Referring to ‘Spooky action at a distance’ as Albert called it – and couldn’t accept it.

          Yes, the lens should pass photons rather than capture them – hence the comment.
          It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this experiment when it does take place.
          It’ll also be interesting to see how they sync the time (for ‘instantaneous measurements’/spin flipping) as there will of course be a velocity difference between the earth and ISS.

          • paintitwhite

            Indeed difficult to sync the time, the speed of quantum entanglement has been measured in some experiments to be 10000 times the speed of light!

            However it is planned to add a very exact atomic clock to the ISS during 2013. For this experiment proposal they will most likely want to wait until that one is installed.

            Also a bit more info on this experiment proposal is covered in an article on Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130409095412.htm

  • Valdemar

    I knew the 400mm was a big lens but not THAT big!

    • http://liesthrualens.com

      yeah :). Thank God it comes with a tripod mount! :).

  • LGPhotoArt.com

    When I grow up I want to be a Photongrapher 🙂

  • toomuchchroma

    Can we see comparison samples with the new 800-400 photon lens?

    • chroma

      whoops. that’s 80-400 lens.

  • Zyad “the” Gomaa

    Fake, There are no Nikon lenses that big. A floating lens bigger than the earth is improbable and very unuseful.

    • Morongraber

      But it exists. Check it up at http://www.amanass.org. You’ll be amazed.

    • AlphaTed

      It’s made by aliens. Duh.

  • Dicksinurmouth

    Thats bullshit my niggas

  • NIck932

    Do all lenses capture anything else than photons?

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