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D. Le Mignant (W. M. Keck Observatory)
For astronomers, it all started in 1985 when Foy and Labeyrie (1985, A&A, 152, L29)published the concept of creating a laser guide star (LGS) in the mesospheric layer of the atmosphere to extend the use of adaptive optics (AO) to a much larger fraction of the astronomical sky. Shortly thereafter, the first sodium wavelength laser beam was propagated from Mauna Kea to validate the LGS concept (Thompson & Gardner 1987, Nature, 328, 229). In 1991, the results from the research undertaken by the U.S. Dept. of Defense were published in the open literature (Fugate et al. 1991, Nature, 353, 144). Experiments were subsequently performed at a number of Observatories (Apache Point, MMT, Calar Alto & Lick) resulting in one operational LGS-AO facility on the Lick 3-m telescope (Max et al. 1997, Science, 277, 1649).
Today, Keck II LGS-AO, the first operational LGS-AO facility on an 8-10-m class telescope, is paving a new road for astronomical science by providing very high angular resolution (FWHMs of 50-60 mas with Strehls of 20-35% at K) over half of the sky. AO-corrected imagers and spectrographs at Keck and elsewhere will soon be used by a wider community of astronomers to complement and frequently surpass the observations obtained from space.
We will present a review and a discussion of this powerful new instrumentation: the exciting scientific showcases and the challenges for combining complicated dynamic systems into productive, reliable and user-friendly instrumentation. We will provide an update on the forthcoming LGSAO intruments at other major observatories. We will report on the image quality performance, as well as on-sky observing efficiency, for the Keck II system (Wizinowich et al. 2005, PASP, submitted).
As many astronomers plan for "AO all-the-time" on large and extremely large telescopes, this talk will provide some information and lessons learned for how to best prepare for the bright LGS-AO future.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.