Adaptive Optics

Adaptive Optics (AO) is technique that, like speckle interferometry, overcomes the limits to resolution created by the atmospheric distortion of the light coming from binaries (or other objects).  Rather than taking hundreds or thousands of short exposures as in speckle interferometry, a single long exposure is made, but the shape of a small mirror in the optical train is changed hundreds of times every second to compensate for the atmospheric distortion. To detect the atmospheric distortion, a powerful laser emits a narrow light beam that produces a bright artificial “star” high up in the atmosphere or, alternatively, analyzes the backscatter from the beam. An automatic AO system (Robo-AO) is being installed on the University of Hawaii’s 2.2m telescope on Mauna Kea, and we hope to obtain observing time on this system in conjunction with our partners in Hawaii.

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