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  • Northrop Grumman Teams with UNM on Adaptive Optics
Jun 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., June 5, 2013 — Northrop Grumman Corp. and the University of New Mexico (UNM) have partnered to sponsor a senior design project aimed at developing algorithms to correct optical distortions at two large telescopes.

The project, titled Adaptive Optics, gave electrical and computer engineering students at UNM hands-on experience modeling and writing matrix laboratory code to correct distortions of the large mirror telescopes at the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and the Maui Space Surveillance Center in Haleakala, Hawaii. The students were mentored by Northrop Grumman engineers over an eight-month period.

“Northrop Grumman is committed to supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. By working with schools across the nation, we’re able to mentor and help mold our country’s future engineers,” said Andy Kwas, engineering and technology manager of Northrop Grumman Technical Services. “This was exciting for both mentors and students.”

The telescopes are used to observe dim objects in space from the ground. Conditions on Earth, including gravity and atmospheric disturbances, can affect the telescope’s mirrors, degrading their precision and ability to focus.

“Because adaptive optics and real-time programming are beyond the scope of our undergraduate curriculum, the students working on the adaptive optics team gained critical skills from working with Northrop Grumman that will aid them in having a successful career,” said Rich Compeau, an electrical and computer engineering instructor at UNM.

Northrop Grumman, of Falls Church, Va., also funded test configurations of mirrors and the high-power computing time needed for students to model the effect of the Earth’s conditions on the telescopes.

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adaptive optics
Optical components or assemblies whose performance is monitored and controlled so as to compensate for aberrations, static or dynamic perturbations such as thermal, mechanical and acoustical disturbances, or to adapt to changing conditions, needs or missions. The most familiar example is the "rubber mirror,'' whose surface shape, and thus reflective qualities, can be controlled by electromechanical means. See also active optics; phase conjugation.
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