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  • richardmitnick 4:31 am on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , Four Lasers Over Paranal   

    From ESO: “Four Lasers Over Paranal” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    27 April 2016
    Domenico Bonaccini Calia
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6567
    Cell: +49 (0) 174 5246 013
    Email: Domenico.Bonaccini@eso.org

    Wolfgang Hackenberg
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6782
    Email: whackenb@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1

    On 26 April 2016 ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile hosted an event to mark the first light for the four powerful lasers that form a crucial part of the adaptive optics systems on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Attendees were treated to a spectacular display of cutting-edge laser technology against the majestic skies of Paranal. These are the most powerful laser guide stars ever used for astronomy and the event marks the first use of multiple laser guide stars at ESO.

    2
    Schematic view of the Four Laser Guide Star Facility on the ESO VLT

    3
    The most powerful laser guide star system in the world sees first light at the Paranal Observatory

    ESO staff were present for the event, along with senior representatives of the companies that have manufactured the different components of the new system.

    The Four Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF) shines four 22-watt laser beams into the sky to create artificial guide stars by making sodium atoms in the upper atmosphere glow so that they look just like real stars [1]. The artificial stars allow the adaptive optics systems to compensate for the blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere and so that the telescope can create sharp images. Using more than one laser allows the turbulence in the atmosphere to be mapped in far greater detail to significantly improve the image quality over a larger field of view.

    The Four Laser Guide Star Facility is an example of how ESO enables European industry to lead complex research and development projects. The fibre laser used by the 4LGSF is also one of the most successful transfers of ESO technology to industry.

    TOPTICA, the German main contractor, was responsible for the laser system and provided the oscillator, the frequency doubler, and the system control software. Wilhelm Kaenders, president of TOPTICA, said: “TOPTICA has enjoyed the collaboration with ESO tremendously. It is not only the personal thrill of being engaged with astronomy, an old passion, again, and working with very clever ESO technologists; it is also the inspiration that we have received for our own commercial product development.” [2]

    MPBC of Canada provided the fibre laser pumps and Raman amplifiers, which are based on an ESO licensed patent. Jane Bachynski, President of MPB Communications Inc. said: “MPBC is proud to have worked with ESO in the development of Raman fibre amplifiers to much higher powers, allowing MPBC to bring this technology to the stars. This event marks the culmination of many years of hard work on behalf of all involved.” [3]

    TNO in the Netherlands manufactured the optical tube assemblies, which expand the laser beams and direct them into the sky. Paul de Krom, CEO of TNO, said: “TNO valued the cooperative working environment during the development of the optical tube assemblies and looks forward to the opportunity to work with ESO and the other partners in the 4LGSF project in the future.” [4]

    The 4LGSF is part of the Adaptive Optics Facility on Unit Telescope 4 of the VLT, designed specifically to provide the adaptive optics systems GALACSI/MUSE and GRAAL/HAWK-I with four sodium laser guide stars. With this new facility, Paranal Observatory continues to have the most advanced and the largest number of adaptive optics systems in operation today.

    The 4LGSF lasers were developed by ESO with industry and have already been procured, among others, by the Keck Observatory (which contributed to the industrial laser development cost along with the European Commission) and the Subaru Telescope. In the future these industrial lasers will also feature on the telescopes at the Gemini Observatory and will be the preferred choice for several other observatories and extremely large telescope projects.

    The new techniques developed for the Four Laser Guide Star Facility pave the way for the adaptive optics system of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), the world’s biggest eye on the sky.
    Notes

    [1] The 4LGSF is the second generation laser guide star facility, built by ESO for the Adaptive Optics Facility on the UT4 VLT telescope. The two critical long-lead items for the 4LGSF, the laser system and the optical tube assemblies for the laser launch telescope systems have been procured from industry. The fibre Raman laser technology, on which the 4LGSF laser system is based, has been developed at ESO, patented and licensed to industry.

    [2] This project has allowed TOPTICA to extend its products into a new wavelength and output power regime. It now produces the SodiumStar 20/2, which is recognised as a quasi-standard for existing and planned telescopes around the world. All next generation extremely large telescope projects, for example, use the SodiumStar laser as their baseline. During the seven years of collaboration with ESO the company has grown from 80 people to more than 200 today.

    [3] MPBC’s collaboration with ESO has also generated an additional benefit, in the form of an offshoot product line of single frequency amplification products at virtually any wavelength, supporting novel applications for the scientific and commercial research community.

    [4] The developments by TNO also involved contributions from many suppliers from the Netherlands (Vernooy, Vacutech, Rovasta, Schott Benelux, Maxon Motor Benelux, IPS technology, Sensordata and WestEnd) and other international companies (RMI, Qioptiq, Laser Components, Carl Zeiss, GLP, Faes, Farnell, Eriks and Pfeiffer). The knowledge and technologies advanced by working with ESO feed into TNO’s Dutch and European partners, in fields including astronomy, communications, semiconductor manufacturing, medical devices, space science and Earth observation.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO NTT
    NTT

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    ESO APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 3:01 pm on December 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , ,   

    From Keck: “$4 Million Laser Marks Ground Zero for Adaptive Optics Science” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    December 8, 2015
    MEDIA
    Steve Jefferson
    Communication Officer
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    sjefferson@keck.hawaii.edu

    1
    Image from the launching point of the telescope looking up into the night sky. The central hole in the beam is due to the secondary mirror obscuration on the laser beam launch telescope and is used to align the laser beam. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory

    2
    The top spot is the artificially created laser guide star in the mesosphere with sodium atoms excited by the laser. The star pattern and surrounding lopes, seen by the acquisition camera, show the structures of the telescope and the equipment in the light path. The bottom spot is a reflection of the laser star on the camera optics. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory

    3
    A point spread image shows the symmetry of the artificially created guide star in the mesosphere.

    Hawaii’s W. M. Keck Observatory has successfully deployed a $4 million laser system that provides a marked increase in the resolution and clarity of what are already the most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The new laser was projected on the sky for the first time on the evening of December 1, 2015 and will allow scientists from around the world to observe the heavens above Maunakea in unprecedented detail.

    “The Next Generation Laser System is the third generation of lasers at Keck Observatory, which has been pioneering Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics on big telescopes since 2001,” said Jason Chin, the project manager for the new laser at Keck Observatory.

    The first Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics system on a large telescope was commissioned on the Keck II telescope in 2004 and, among many other firsts, helped reveal the black hole at the center of the Milky Way – one the most significant astronomical discoveries. The second laser system was installed in 2011 on the Keck I telescope, propelling Keck Observatory’s lead as the premiere Adaptive Optics research facility in the world. To date more than 240 science results from these laser systems have been published in astronomical journals.

    Keck Observatory’s Laser Guide Star systems create an artificial star in the earth’s mesosphere, at an altitude of roughly 60 miles, by energizing a naturally occurring layer of sodium atoms, causing them to fluoresce. The adaptive optics system uses this artificial laser guide star to measure the aberrations introduced by turbulence in the earth’s atmosphere. A six-inch diameter deformable mirror with 349 actuators is then used to correct for these aberrations at a rate of 1,000 times per second, effectively taking the twinkle out of the stars and providing near-perfect detail for planets, stars and galaxies. Combined with the 10-meter diameter primary mirror, Keck Observatory can offer images with five times the resolution of even the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The new laser is the result of a collaboration between Keck Observatory and the European Southern Observatory to develop a more efficient and powerful facility class, commercial laser for astronomy. The new laser, fabricated by TOPTICA in Germany and MPBC in Canada meets both goals handily: the power consumption on the new system is down to 1.2 kW from the previous 80 kW used by the former dye laser system while performance has increased by a factor of ten. Further, the new laser can transition from off to an operational state in five minutes – a dramatic improvement over the five to six hours for the dye laser, which was decommissioned in October to make room for the new laser.

    Perhaps most significantly, this is first of the new generation of lasers that all future telescopes are planning on and are looking to Hawaii’s findings to build their systems.

    Funding for the project came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation and Friends of Keck Observatory. Initial seed funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.

    More than one-third of the budget was spent in Hawaii designing and installing the systems and related infrastructure to support and operate the new laser. The remaining budget was spent on the laser itself – more than $2.5 million. The project also provided infrastructure for adding two additional lasers to support laser tomography in order to determine the distribution of atmospheric turbulence versus altitude. Once funded, the additional lasers can be easily added to the system and would allow a much larger area of the sky to be sampled with even better correction of the atmospheric turbulence.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

    See the full article here .

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    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
    Keck UCal

    Keck NASA

    Keck Caltech

     
  • richardmitnick 12:13 pm on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , ,   

    From ESO: “Laser Guide Star Units Accepted and Shipped to Chile” 


    European Southern Observatory

    27 November 2015
    Domenico Bonaccini Calia
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6567
    Email: dbonacci@eso.org

    Wolfgang Hackenberg
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6782
    Email: whackenb@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    One of the units of the Four Laser Guide Star Facility for the VLT

    All four laser guide star units that form the Four Laser Guide Star Facility — a core part of the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) for ESO’s Very Large Telescope — have now been accepted and are being shipped to Chile. This is a major step towards establishing VLT Unit Telescope 4 as a fully adaptive telescope with much enhanced image quality.

    ESO 4LGSF Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF)
    The 4LGSF is to be installed as a subsystem of the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) on UT4 of the VLT, to provide the AO systems GALACSI/MUSE and GRAAL/HAWK-I with four sodium laser guide stars (LGSs), as artificial reference sources for the high-order AO corrections.

    The 4LGSF will deploy four modular LGS Units (see below) at the UT4 Centrepiece, as shown in Figure 1. Each LGS Unit consists of the Launch Telescope System incl. 20W Laser Head and two close-by cabinets, one hosting the Laser Unit electronics (incl. the pump fibre laser unit) and the other containing the local control electronics. Two additional 4LGSF cabinets are installed on a new 4LGSF Platform underneath the Nasmyth B platform and contain the computers for independently controlling the four LGS Units. The 4LGSF Platform also hosts the heat exchanger for the laser cooling system.

    An adaptive optics system uses sensors to analyse the atmospheric turbulence and a deformable mirror integrated in the telescope to correct for the image distortions caused by the atmosphere. But a bright point-like star very close in the sky to the object being studied is essential, so that the turbulence can be accurately characterised.

    Finding a natural star in the right place for this role is unlikely. So, to make the correction of the atmospheric turbulence possible everywhere in the sky, for all possible science targets, an artificial star is needed. Such stars can be created by projecting a powerful laser beam into the sky onto the sodium layer, where it creates a bright glow that appears star-like from the ground.

    By measuring the atmospherically induced motions and distortions of this artificial star, and making tiny adjustments to the deformable secondary mirror one thousand times per second, the telescope can produce images with much greater sharpness than is possible without adaptive optics.

    The first Adaptive Optics Facility laser guide star unit was installed on the VLT and successfully tested in situ earlier this year. These tests have confirmed the sound design implemented by ESO, in collaboration with European industry and scientific institutes [1]. Tests on VLT Unit Telescope 4 in Chile showed high optical quality, providing an almost perfect artificial star image, and high efficiency of the sodium layer excitation. These successes mean that the team can proceed with preliminary tests with GRAAL, the adaptive optics module feeding HAWK-I, the wide-field imager on Unit Telescope 4; all further steps towards the full commissioning of the Adaptive Optics Facility at Paranal.

    ESO Graal
    GRAAL

    ESO HAWK-I
    Hawk-I

    The Adaptive Optics Facility will use four lasers simultaneously, which will allow better characterisation of the atmosphere’s properties — and hence a larger field of view where the image is corrected — than is possible with just one laser.

    When fully installed, the Adaptive Optics Facility will feed light into two instruments, HAWK-I (in conjunction with GRAAL) and the integral field spectrograph, MUSE, (in conjunction with GALACSI).

    ESO MUSE
    MUSE

    ESO GALACSI
    GALACSI

    Notes

    [1] The companies involved include: TOPTICA, Germany; TNO, The Netherlands; MPB Communications, Canada; Optec, Italy; Astrel, Italy; and Laseroptik, Germany. In addition INAF–Osservatorio di Roma, Italy has made significant contributions to the project.

    Links

    More information about the laser
    More information about the deformable secondary mirror
    More information about the laser launch telescope

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT Interferometer
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    ESO APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 3:09 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , ,   

    From U Hawaii Institute For Astronomy: “Robotic Laser Astronomy on the Rise 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    Institute for Astronomy

    October 12, 2015
    Dr. Christoph Baranec
    +1 808-498-9817
    baranec@hawaii.edu

    Dr. Roy Gal
    +1 808-956-6235
    cell: +1 301-728-8637
    rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

    Ms. Louise Good
    Media Contact
    +1 808-381-2939
    good@ifa.hawaii.edu

    1
    The ultraviolet Robo-AO laser originating from the Palomar 1.5-meter Telescope dome. Although the laser is invisible to the human eye, it shows up in digital SLR cameras once their internal UV blocking filters are removed. The apparent color of the laser beam is a result of the UV light leaking through the camera’s red, green and blue pixel filters by slightly different amounts.)

    The world’s first robotic laser adaptive optics system, developed by a team led by University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer Christoph Baranec, will soon find a new home at the venerable 2.1-meter (83-inch) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. This system, renamed Robo-AO KP, will be the world’s first dedicated adaptive optics astronomical observatory and will allow astronomers to take an unprecedented number of highly detailed images of a wide range of celestial objects.

    2
    Graduate students Rebecca Jensen-Clem (Caltech) and Maissa Salama (UH) rebuilding Robo-AO so it can be used on the 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Credit: C. Baranec.

    NOAO Kitt Peak 2.1 meter telescope
    NOAO Kitt Peak 2.1 meter telescope

    The prototype Robo-AO system has been operational on a part-time basis at the Palomar Observatory 1.5-meter (60-inch) telescope since 2011, and has been an indispensable tool for many areas of astronomy: It has confirmed thousands of exoplanet discoveries made by NASA’s Kepler mission and measured the rates at which different types of stars are born into single, double, triple and even quadruple star systems.

    Caltech Palomar 1.5 meter 60 inch telescope
    Caltech Palomar 1.5 meter 60 inch telescope interior
    Caltech Palomar 1.5 meter 60 inch telescope

    NASA Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler

    3
    Christoph Baranec with Robo-AO on the 60-inch Palomar telescope. Photo courtesy C. Baranec.

    The Robo-AO team even recently discovered one of only two known quadruple star systems containing planets. Once the system becomes Robo-AO KP after its transfer to the Kitt Peak telescope later in 2015, the team will be able to take on much more ambitious projects.

    Baranec led the development of Robo-AO when he worked at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Other core members of the Robo-AO team include Reed Riddle (Caltech), Nicholas Law (now at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Shri Kulkarni (Caltech). The same team, under the leadership of Kulkarni and Caltech, will be responsible for the overall deployment and operation of the Robo-AO KP system. Baranec is responsible for adapting Robo-AO to the new telescope optics and adding an additional infrared science camera based on new technologies being developed by fellow UH astronomer Donald Hall.

    “Not only will we now have the necessary observing time for adaptive optics surveys that were previously thought to be impractical, but we’ll also be augmenting our back-end cameras with new technology developed in Hawaii,” said Baranec. “I’m also excited that students from Hawaii are deeply involved in preparing Robo-AO for its move, deploying the new camera, and planning for several of the upcoming science surveys,” he added.

    In addition, Baranec is developing an upgraded Robo-AO system for the UH 2.2-meter (88-inch) telescope on Maunakea that will be even more powerful and will be equipped with additional instruments for studying nearby supernovae and cosmology in the local universe.

    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope interior
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope

    Robo-AO uses an ultraviolet laser to create an artificial guide star in the sky to measure the blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere. By measuring how the atmosphere affects this artificial star, a deformable mirror in the system can be commanded to remove its blurring effects. Because light from the laser and celestial objects pass through the same atmosphere, and both are reflected off of the deformable mirror, images of celestial objects are similarly de-blurred, leading to very sharp images limited only by the same laws of physics that limit the sharpness of space-based telescopes.

    As its name implies, Robo-AO KP will operate autonomously, making it the most efficient adaptive optics system in use today. (There will still be a telescope operator to handle routine opening and closing of the dome and monitoring of the weather.) Its invisible ultraviolet laser guide star beam will not distract or affect airplane pilots, or produce radiation that is hazardous during momentary exposures. Additionally, two months of observing time each year will be available to the broad United States astronomical community, which thus far has had only limited access to Robo-AO.

    Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.

    Kitt Peak National Observatory is a division of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

    Time-lapse video: http://youtu.be/HN_jdJflfv0

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

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  • richardmitnick 2:27 pm on February 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , ,   

    From ESO: “First Light for Laser Guide Star Technology Collaboration” 


    European Southern Observatory

    10 February 2015
    Domenico Bonaccini Calia
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6567
    Email: dbonacci@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1

    A team of astronomers and engineers from ESO, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) and INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma has achieved first light and successful commissioning of the ESO Wendelstein Laser Guide Star system [1] at the IAC’s Observatorio del Teide on Tenerife in Spain.

    IAC Observatorio del Tiede
    IAC Observatorio del Tiede

    Following an agreement in April 2014 between ESO and the IAC, the required infrastructure for the experiment was built at the observatory. The team carried out the installation and commissioning of the ESO Wendelstein Laser Guide Star Unit laser, the receiver system and the automated observing software.

    These joint activities are research and development studies to optimise the laser guide star return brightness from the upper atmosphere with special attention being paid to the influence of the geomagnetic field on the performance.

    The experimental setup uses fibre laser technologies developed at ESO to produce a 20-watt continuous wave laser that is capable of varying laser parameters such as frequency, spectral lines, linewidth, polarisation and intensity. The setup allows laser guide stars to be acquired automatically while switching the laser parameters and the pointing. Observational campaigns will start in February 2015 and continue at a rate of one week per quarter for a period of 15 months.

    This work is part of a larger laser guide star and adaptive optics technology research and development programme at ESO in collaboration with Member State institutes and companies, in the context of current and future large telescope projects including the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT

    These experiments are also a step towards the development of the laser guide star system for the GTC and could be adopted to upgrade existing systems at other telescopes such as the Large Binocular Telescope.

    Large Binocular Telescope
    LBT
    Notes

    [1] These laser systems are some of the technology used in the technique of adaptive optics, which compensates for the atmospheric turbulence that affects ground-based observations. An artificial guide star is produced by shining a powerful laser into the sky — which acts as an artificial reference point from which light is returned back to Earth — helping to create images of astronomical objects as sharp as if the telescope were in space.

    See the full article here.

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    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:01 pm on April 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , ,   

    From ESO: “Stellar family in crowded, violent neighbourhood proves to be surprisingly normal” 2009 


    European Southern Observatory

    4 June 2009
    Contacts

    Fernando Selman
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +56 55 43 5311,+56 2 463 3168
    Email: fselman@eso.org

    Jorge Melnick
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6297
    Email: jmelnick@eso.org

    Pablo Espinoza
    Steward Observatory
    Arizona, USA
    Tel: +56 9 84192504
    Email: pespinoza@as.arizona.edu

    Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have obtained one of the sharpest views ever of the Arches Cluster — an extraordinary dense cluster of young stars near the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. Despite the extreme conditions astronomers were surprised to find the same proportions of low- and high-mass young stars in the cluster as are found in more tranquil locations in our Milky Way.

    arches

    ESO VLT
    ESO VLT

    The massive Arches Cluster is a rather peculiar star cluster. It is located 25 000 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer), and contains about a thousand young, massive stars, less than 2.5 million years old [1]. It is an ideal laboratory to study how massive stars are born in extreme conditions as it is close to the centre of our Milky Way, where it experiences huge opposing forces from the stars, gas and the supermassive black hole that reside there. The Arches Cluster is ten times heavier than typical young star clusters scattered throughout our Milky Way and is enriched with chemical elements heavier than helium.

    Using the NACO adaptive optics instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, located in Chile, astronomers scrutinised the cluster in detail. Thanks to adaptive optics, astronomers can remove most of the blurring effect of the atmosphere, and so the new NACO images of the Arches Cluster are even crisper than those obtained with telescopes in space. Observing the Arches Cluster is very challenging because of the huge quantities of absorbing dust between Earth and the Galactic Centre, which visible light cannot penetrate. This is why NACO was used to observe the region in near-infrared light.

    ESO NACO
    NACO instrument

    Adaptive Optics
    Display of Adaptive Optics, where a laser is aimed at a sodium layer and a “guide” star is created.

    The new study confirms the Arches Cluster to be the densest cluster of massive young stars known. It is about three light-years across with more than a thousand stars packed into each cubic light-year — an extreme density a million times greater than in the Sun’s neighbourhood.

    Astronomers studying clusters of stars have found that higher mass stars are rarer than their less massive brethren, and their relative numbers are the same everywhere, following a universal law. For many years, the Arches Cluster seemed to be a striking exception.

    “With the extreme conditions in the Arches Cluster, one might indeed imagine that stars won’t form in the same way as in our quiet solar neighbourhood,” says Pablo Espinoza, the lead author of the paper reporting the new results. “However, our new observations showed that the masses of stars in this cluster actually do follow the same universal law”.

    In this image the astronomers could also study the brightest stars in the cluster. “The most massive star we found has a mass of about 120 times that of the Sun,” says co-author Fernando Selman. “We conclude from this that if stars more massive than 130 solar masses exist, they must live for less than 2.5 million years and end their lives without exploding as supernovae, as massive stars usually do.”

    The total mass of the cluster seems to be about 30 000 times that of the Sun, much more than was previously thought. “That we can see so much more is due to the exquisite NACO images,” says co-author Jorge Melnick.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 7:18 pm on March 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , ,   

    From ESO: “Powerful New Laser Passes Key Test” 


    European Southern Observatory

    ESO accepts the first 22-watt sodium laser for the Adaptive Optics Facility

    24 March 2014
    Contacts

    Steffan Lewis
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6931
    Email: slewis@eso.org

    Domenico Bonaccini Calia
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6567
    Email: dbonacci@eso.org

    Wolfgang Hackenberg
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6782
    Email: whackenb@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    A new 22-watt laser has now been accepted from the system supplier TOPTICA and its partner MPB following nearly five years of sustained collaboration and effort . This laser system will form part of the Adaptive Optics Facility at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).This laser, and four further similar units (including one spare) that will be delivered later, constitute key elements of the new facility and this acceptance marks a major step forward for the project.

    ad
    The first 22-watt sodium laser of the Adaptive Optics Facility

    ESO VLT
    VLT

    Five years ago the options for obtaining high power, reliable lasers in a compact format suitable for the requirements of the Adaptive Optics Facility were very limited. But now new technology and dedicated research and development have changed the landscape.

    After three months of acceptance testing at ESO, the project team was very happy with the performance of the new hardware, which holds great promise for simple and stable operation on the VLT in the future. This is crucial because these lasers will be used every time an observation is taken with the Adaptive Optics Facility.

    The new laser design also benefits from a special technique aimed at enhancing the brightness of the artificial guide star generated in the sodium layer 90 kilometres up in the atmosphere; this is a unique feature never routinely used so far in a major observing facility.

    The Adaptive Optics Facility uses sensors to analyse the atmospheric turbulence and a deformable mirror integrated [Active Optics]in the telescope to correct for the image distortions caused by the atmosphere. But a bright point-like star needs to be at hand in order to measure the turbulence, and this needs to be very close to the science target in the sky.

    Finding a natural star for this role is unlikely. So, to make the correction of the atmospheric turbulence possible everywhere in the sky, for all possible science targets, engineers came up with the idea of projecting a powerful laser beam into the sky onto the sodium layer to create an artificial star. By measuring the atmospherically induced motions and distortions of this artificial star, and making minute adjustments to the deformable secondary mirror, the telescope can produce images with much greater sharpness than is possible without adaptive optics.

    The new laser delivers 22 watts, which sounds modest compared to standard lightbulbs, but when emitted in a coherent way the beam is very intense (and powerful enough to require special safety measures during operation). The challenge of such lasers is to efficiently produce light at the particular wavelength needed to create the artificial star.

    The performance of these new lasers, once they are in operation on the telescope, will be of interest for future projects such as the European Extremely Large Telescope, which also has requirements for multiple laser guide star units.

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    See the full article, with notes, here. Read the notes.

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  • richardmitnick 11:15 pm on February 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , ,   

    From ESO: “SINFONI Opens with Upbeat Chords” 2004 and Update 2014 


    European Southern Observatory

    24 August 2004
    Contacts

    Frank Eisenhauer
    Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE)
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49-89-30000-3563
    Email: eisenhau@mpe.mpg.de

    Paul van der Werf
    Leiden Observatory
    Leiden, Netherlands
    Tel: +31-71-5275883
    Email: pvdwerf@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    Henri Bonnet
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Email: hbonnet@eso.org

    Reinhard Genzel
    Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE)
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49-89-30000-3280

    Norbert Hubin
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Email: nhubin@eso.org

    The European Southern Observatory, the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (Garching, Germany) and the Nederlandse Onderzoekschool Voor Astronomie (Leiden, The Netherlands), and with them all European astronomers, are celebrating the successful accomplishment of “First Light” for the Adaptive Optics (AO) assisted SINFONI (“Spectrograph for INtegral Field Observation in the Near-Infrared”) instrument, just installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory (Chile).

    sonfoni2
    SINFONI Adaptive Optics Module at VLT Yepun June 2004

    ESO VLT
    VLT

    sinfoni
    SINFONI

    This is the first facility of its type ever installed on an 8-m class telescope, now providing exceptional observing capabilities for the imaging and spectroscopic studies of very complex sky regions, e.g. stellar nurseries and black-hole environments, also in distant galaxies. Following smooth assembly at the 8.2-m VLT Yepun telescope of SINFONI’s two parts, the Adaptive Optics Module that feeds the SPIFFI spectrograph, the “First Light” spectrum of a bright star was recorded with SINFONI in the early evening of July 9, 2004.

    SPIFFI
    SPIFFI

    The following thirteen nights served to evaluate the performance of the new instrument and to explore its capabilities by test observations on a selection of exciting astronomical targets. They included the Galactic Centre region, already imaged with the NACO AO-instrument on the same telescope. Unprecedented high-angular resolution spectra and images were obtained of stars in the immediate vicinity of the massive central black hole. During the night of July 15 – 16, SINFONI recorded a flare from this black hole in great detail. Other interesting objects observed during this period include galaxies with active nuclei (e.g., the Circinus Galaxy and NGC 7469), a merging galaxy system (NGC 6240) and a young starforming galaxy pair at redshift 2 (BX 404/405). These first results were greeted with enthusiasm by the team of astronomers and engineers from the consortium of German and Dutch Institutes and ESO who have worked on the development of SINFONI for nearly 7 years. The work on SINFONI at Paranal included successful commissioning in June 2004 of the Adaptive Optics Module built by ESO, during which exceptional test images were obtained of the main-belt asteroid (22) Kalliope and its moon. Moreover, the ability was demonstrated to correct the atmospheric turbulence by means of even very faint “guide” objects (magnitude 17.5), crucial for the observation of astronomical objects in many parts of the sky. SPIFFI – SPectrometer for Infrared Faint Field Imaging – was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE) in Garching (Germany), in a collaboration with the Nederlandse Onderzoekschool Voor Astronomie (NOVA) in Leiden and the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (ASTRON), and ESO.

    Circinus
    Circinus Galaxy

    Update Feb 17, 2014

    SINFONI undergoing Balancing and Flexure Tests at VLT Yepun

    sinfoni

    See the full article, with appendices and notes, here. Update is here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:37 pm on February 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , , ,   

    From ESO: “New Laser Improves VLT’s Capabilities” 

    21 February 2013

    A new and more powerful laser has successfully completed testing at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and has been formally accepted today. This new laser source is called PARLA and forms a vital part of the Laser Guide Star Facility (LGSF) at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

    parla

    The laser is used to generate an artificial star about 90 kilometres up in the atmosphere [1]. By creating and observing such a bright point of light astronomers can probe the turbulence in the layers of the atmosphere above the telescope. This information is then used to adjust deformable mirrors in real time in order to correct most of the disturbances caused by the constant movement of atmosphere and create much sharper images.

    The new laser will greatly improve the reliability and flexibility in operating the LGSF [laser guided star facility]. It uses similar technology to that which will also be employed in the four lasers of the future Adaptive Optics Facility currently under development at ESO. The new laser delivers up to 7 Watts of output and is very stable.

    Notes

    [1] An artificial star is created where the laser interacts with the 10-kilometre thick layer of neutral sodium atoms in the mesosphere causing them to fluoresce. Atomic sodium has an optical transition at a wavelength of 589 nanometres. The laser parameters are tuned to efficiently excite this atom.”

    Contacts

    Steffan Lewis

    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6931
    Email: slewis@eso.org

    Frederic Gonte
    ESO, Paranal Observatory
    Chile
    Tel: +56 55 43 5248
    Email: fgonte@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    See the full article here.

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    THE BASIC TOOLS OF E.S.O.
    i1
    Paranal Platform The VLT

    ESO NTT

    NTT – New Technology Telescope


    La Silla


    ALMA Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

    i2
    The European Extremely Large Telescope
    VISTAVISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy)


    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX)

    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.


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  • richardmitnick 8:50 pm on January 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adaptive Optics, , , , ,   

    From Gemini Observatory: “NEXT-GENERATION ADAPTIVE OPTICS BRINGS REMARKABLE DETAILS TO LIGHT IN STELLAR NURSERY” 

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    For release on Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    “Figure 1. This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of December 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. The large adaptive optics field-of-view (85 arcseconds across) demonstrates the system’s extreme resolution and uniform correction across the entire field. The three filters used for this composite color image include [Fe II], H2, and, K(short)-continuum (2.093 microns) for blue, orange, and white layers respectively. The natural seeing while these data were taken ranged from about 0.8 to 1.1 arcseconds, with AO corrected images ranging from 0.084 to 0.103 arcsecond. Each filter had a total integration (exposure) of 600 seconds. In this image, the blue spots are clouds of gaseous iron “bullets” being propelled at supersonic speeds from a region of massive star formation outside, and below, this image’s field-of-view. As these “bullets” pass through neutral hydrogen gas it heats up the hydrogen and produces the pillars that trace the passage of the iron clouds.

    image 1

    This animation [below]compares the images obtained with Altair in 2007 with the new GeMS version obtained in December 2012. As the bullets (the blue dots at the end of the orange pillar) are moving at supersonic speeds, the comparison with the 2007 image illustrates this motion. In the new image, each single bullet has moved away from the star forming region located below the image’s field-of-view and thanks to the high-resolution of AO correction these motions are easily detectable. Moreover, as the new GeMS/GSAOI instrument combination covers a larger field, more of these bullets can be monitored at once.

    image2
    Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

    Principal Investigator(s): John Bally and Adam Ginsberg, University of Colorado and the GeMS/GSAOI commissioning team; Data processing/reduction: Rodrigo Carrasco, Gemini Observatory; Color image composite: Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage.

    Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

    A new image released today reveals how Gemini Observatory’s most advanced adaptive optics (AO) system will help astronomers study the universe with an unprecedented level of clarity and detail by removing distortions due to the Earth’s atmosphere. The photo, featuring an area on the outskirts of the famous Orion Nebula, illustrates the instrument’s significant advancements over previous-generation AO systems.

    ‘The combination of a constellation of five laser guide stars with multiple deformable mirrors allows us to expand significantly on what has previously been possible using adaptive optics in astronomy,’ said Benoit Neichel, who currently leads this adaptive optics program for Gemini. ‘For years our team has focused on developing this system, and to see this magnificent image, just hinting at its scientific potential, made our nights on the mountain – while most folks were celebrating the New Year’s holiday – the best celebration ever!'”

    guide
    Figure 3. Propagation of the Gemini South Laser. Gemini Images by Manuel Paredes.
    Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

    AURA Icon

    Gemini North
    Gemini North, Hawai’i

    Gemini South
    Gemini South, Chile

    The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.
    Gemini was built and is operated by a partnership of six countries including the United States, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for time on Gemini, which is allocated in proportion to each partner’s financial stake.


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