Adaptive Optics with Sodium Laser Guide Stars

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Session 42 -- High-Spatial Resolution
Display presentation, Tuesday, 10, 1995, 9:20am - 6:30pm

[42.03] Adaptive Optics with Sodium Laser Guide Stars

M. Lloyd-Hart, J.R.P. Angel, B. Jacobsen, D. Wittman, D. McCarthy, T. Martinez (CAAO)

Adaptive optics requires a reference source of light in the sky to measure wavefront aberration introduced by atmospheric turbulence. Natural stars are ideal for this purpose, but the density of bright stars is not sufficient to provide complete sky coverage. The problem can be overcome with an artificial beacon generated from resonant backscattering off mesospheric sodium atoms exited by a low-power laser tuned to the D2 resonance. Recent experiments at the Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) have demonstrated for the first time that an adaptive optics system using a sodium laser guide beacon can be used to improve the imaging quality of the telescope. A beacon of mv = 10.4 was used to control the relative image motion between two of the six apertures of the MMT, while a natural star was used to measure the absolute tilt. A factor of two improvement in the K-band Strehl ratio was measured, and the resolution improved from $0^\?.58$ to $0^\?.41$. The experiment demonstrated all the features needed for correctio n of telescopes of 6.5 to 8-m diameter to the diffraction limit in the near infrared with a single sodium laser beacon.

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