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Adaptive Optics and Other Innovative Optics

Many fields of research in astronomy depend critically on observations with high angular resolution. For this reason, the Hubble Space Telescope has been an important facility for over two decades of astronomical research. Ground-based telescopes can be much larger than telescopes launched into space, and thus can be more powerful for the study of faint objects. Adaptive optics have been developed for ground-based telescopes to overcome the blurring of images by convection in the Earth's atmosphere.   While many observatories around the world have adaptive optics systems, here at Steward Observatory we have pursued the development of deformable secondary mirrors for telescopes, which result in adaptive systems of uniquely low background and high sensitivity.

Faculty and Reseach Staff interested in this research area include:


Image above shows how UA astronomers have developed a way to see faint planets previously hidden in their star's glare. The new mode enables scientists to search for planets closer to the star than has been previously possible. Read the article.

Image to the right shows how Professor Laird Close and his team have achieved excellent AO images in the visible (55% Strehls at i' --765 nm) in the test tower in Italy with the MagAO system running in full 800Hz closed loop (400 modes) on R=8 star in 0.8" seeing (V band) and in simulated 33 mph winds. "This is an excellent level of correction, and suggests that MagAO will be a very powerful AO system" says Close. Close thanks his graduates students Jared Males and Derek Kopon and the whole Arcetri and Microgate AO teams for helping achieve these great results in Italy.