Coupling light into few-mode optical fibres I: The diffraction limit
Multimode fibres are widely used in astronomy because of the ease of coupling light into them at a telescope focus. The photonics industry has given rise to a broad range of products but these are almost exclusively restricted to single-mode fibres, although some can be adapted for use in fibres that allow several modes to propagate. Now that astronomical telescopes are moving toward diffraction-limited performance through the use of adaptive optics (AO), we address the problem of coupling light into a few-mode fibre (FMF). We find that fibres with as few as ~5 guided modes share important characterisitcs with multimode fibres, in particular high coupling efficiency.We anticipate that future astronomical instruments at an AO-corrected focus will be able to exploit a broad class of photonic devices.