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Keck Observatory to Update Adaptive Optics on Keck II Telescope

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded funding to the W.M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, for a significant enhancement of the performance of the adaptive optics (AO) system on the Keck II telescope.

"The Keck telescopes were the first large telescopes to be equipped with AOs and subsequently laser guide stars,” said Peter Wizinowich, principal investigator and chief of technical development at the Keck Observatory. “All major astronomical telescopes now have laser guide star AO systems. Despite this competition, Keck Observatory's AO systems have remained the most scientifically productive in the world. This upgrade will help maintain our science community's competitive advantage.”

AO is a technique used to remove the distortions caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere and provide sharper, more detailed astronomical images. This upgrade will further improve the clarity of the images formed by the telescope. The project will deliver a faster, more flexible real-time controller (RTC), as well as a better, lower noise camera for wavefront sensing. This will reduce the camera readout and computation time between the time that an image is captured and a correction for atmospheric blurring is made.

"Any delay means the correction is applied for atmospheric turbulence that has already started to change,” said Sylvain Cetre, a software engineer at Keck Observatory and a developer of the new RTC. “Even if the correction happens in just a few milliseconds, we want to reduce the delay to a minimum. The new RTC computer and camera uses advanced technology to do just that.” Recognizing this as a valuable STEM opportunity for education and workforce development, the Keck Observatory will include a postdoc as well as a Hawaii college student from the summer Akamai Internship Program to work on the development of the project.

"Part of Keck Observatory's mission is to train and prepare future generations so the work continues long after we are gone," said Jason Chin, a senior engineer at the Keck Observatory and project manager for the new RTC. "Many of Hawaii's finest students, scientists and engineers end up working on the mainland away from their families. We want to show them there is a vibrant tech industry in Hawaii. One of the ways we do that is by participating in the Akamai Internship Program, which has one of the highest retention rates for Hawaii college students staying in the STEM field. We are proud that many are working in our local tech industry."

The upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2018
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.
An afocal optical device made up of lenses or mirrors, usually with a magnification greater than unity, that renders distant objects more distinct, by enlarging their images on the retina.
Businessresearch and developmentNational Science FoundationNSFW.M. Keck Observatoryadaptive opticsKeck IItelescopespaceopticsfundingAmericaslight speed

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