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GSU, Alpao to Upgrade CHARA Array

Photonics.com
Oct 2016
MOUNT WILSON, Calif., Oct. 27, 2016 — Georgia State University's Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) and optics developer Alpao SAS have signed a contract for the development of an adaptive optics upgrade for the CHARA array, the largest optical interferometer array in the world.

GSU, Alpao to Upgrade CHARA ArrayThe organizations will develop new deformable mirrors and improve the sensitivity of the interferometric telescopes on Mount Wilson, Calif. Alpao will develop and manufacture six deformable mirrors, each composed of 69 actuators to deform a plane mirror membrane. These deformable mirrors represent state-of-the-art instrumentation to correct for the effect of atmospheric turbulence. The goal of this technique, known as adaptive optics, is to observe stars and their surroundings as clearly as they would appear in space.

"We are delighted to begin this new stage in CHARA's scientific mission with deformable mirrors from Alpao," said Theo ten Brummelaar, CHARA array director. "Investigators around the world are now planning new programs with the adaptive optics system that will reveal some of the smallest objects in the sky ever measured."

The modifications will allow the telescopes to measure stars three times fainter than now possible. The new system will increase the number of nights with high-quality data by about a factor of three in the summer and five in the winter, with much faster observation times. New important areas of study will include the study of high-interest targets, such as dusty debris disks around young stars and accretion disks and gas flows around newborn stars.

"Alpao is proud to work with CHARA, the world's highest angular resolution telescope at near-infrared wavelengths," said Vincent Hardy, sales manager of Alpao. "This contract will push us to develop six specific deformable mirrors with a precise elliptical surface. All of our team is very excited to be a part of this project for the future of the interferometric telescope and the development of astronomical science."

Alpao designs and manufactures adaptive optics components and systems as well as deformable optical elements for the optimization and enhancement of optical systems.


GLOSSARY
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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