Founded in 1994, the mission of the Center is to support the advancement of astronomical science by providing the means by which to exploit observations at very high resolutions. The Center demonstrates this focus through its current activities and plans for state-of-the-art adaptive optics systems and related technologies for the many large telescope projects of Steward Observatory, in cooperation with partners from elsewhere on campus, across the country, and around the world. These devices significantly reduce the main limitation of ground-based telescopes, the severe reduction of image quality that results from turbulence in Earth's atmosphere. Operating at near-infrared wavelengths, the Center's AO systems allow imaging and spectroscopy at the limit of resolution of optical diffraction. These advances in astronomers' abilities to view the heavens represent the biggest leap in astronomical technology since the invention of the telescope itself.
Currently, the Center explores and implements a broad range of instrumental and analytical techniques for both ground- and space-based observations. Adaptive Optics systems are not the Center's end products; the enhancement of astronomical science that comes from Adaptive Optics and AO-enabled techniques is an ultimate CAAO goal. This requires of the Center parallel development of both ancillary instrumentation and data reduction capabilities, as well as the invention of new observational techniques, especially space-based techniques for the detection of exo-Earths.