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Toptica Provides Lasers for Telescope's Adaptive Optics System

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2018
GARCHING, Germany — The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has signed an agreement with Toptica Photonics AG for the production of lasers to be used in the observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) adaptive optics system.

Toptica, in partnership with MPB Communications Inc., a Canadian optical link provider, will build at least four laser sources for the ELT, helping the telescope to achieve unprecedented spatial resolution for an optical/IR ground-based telescope. The ELT is scheduled to see first light in 2024.

The laser system for the adaptive optics system on the ELT will be based on the Four Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The Adaptive Optics Facility, which uses the 4LGSF, has already shown improvement in image sharpness on the VLT.

Adaptive optics compensate for the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling astronomers to obtain much sharper images. Lasers are used to create multiple artificial guide stars high in the Earth’s atmosphere. These points of light are used as reference light sources to allow the adaptive optics system to compensate for turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike natural guide stars, laser guide stars can be positioned anywhere to allow the full power of adaptive optics to be used over almost the entire sky.

Anticipated observations enabled by the ELT’s powerful built-in adaptive optics system include everything from studying black holes to investigating some of the youngest galaxies in the distant universe.

Toptica develops and manufactures high-end laser systems for scientific and industrial applications. ESO is a European intergovernmental astronomy organization and a ground-based astronomical observatory supported by the 16 countries of Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K., along with the host state of Chile and strategic partner Australia.

GLOSSARY
telescope
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.
BusinessEuropean Southern ObservatoryToptica PhotonicsMPB CommunicationESOExtremely Large TelescopeELTadaptiveopticstelescopespaceEuropelight speed

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