Benjamin Setterholm

About Me

In October 2023, I joined the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. I am overseeing the construction and testing of the optical calibration subsystem for the forthcoming MICADO first-light instrument on the Extremely Large Telescope. I completed my PhD at the University of Michigan in December 2022, where I worked on the design, manufacture, and commissioning of the MIRC-X and MYSTIC beam combiners at the CHARA array and conducted infrared studies of protoplantary disks. Before moving to Heidelberg, I was the lead software developer of the data pipeline for the NASA/JPL SunRISE mission; the first all-space radio interferometer which will be used to study solar mass-ejection events.

Curriculum Vitae


By coherently combining light collected from multiple telescopes (an interferometer), it is possible to recover an image of a an astronomical source tens or hundreds of times sharper than what is attainable with a single telescope alone. My research is focused on advancing the field of high angular resolution astronomy, both through the creation and characterization of new instrumentation and via the detailed analysis of interferometric observables for source reconstruction.

MICADO Calibration Assembly

MICADO is scheduled to be the first-light instrument on the 39-meter ELT. MICADO will achive similar sensitivity to the JWST, but will be able to produce images with 6x greater spatial resolution. I am overseeing the integration of the calibration assembly, necessary to understand the instrument performance and calibrate future scientific observations.

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Protoplanetary Disks

Utilizing interferometric observations from CHARA and VLTI, I study the geometry and dynamics of the terrestrial planet formation regions of nearby protoplanetary disks. With current generation instrumentation, we are able to resolve sub-au scale structures near the dust sublimation radius, and track their evolution over time.

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The Sun Radio Interferometry Space Experiment (SunRISE) is a forthcoming six-cubesat NASA mission that will investigate the formation and motion of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. I was the former lead developer of the data processing and analysis pipeline for this mission.

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MIRC-X and MYSTIC are the workhorse near-infrared beam combiners operating at the CHARA Array, leveraging all 15 CHARA baselines and new detector technologies to enable sub-milliarcsecond resolution imaging of targets as faint as 7th magnitude. I worked on the design, fabrication, testing, and comissioning of critical subsystems for both instruments.

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