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Adaptive optics..i want it!


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Do you think they will ever be able to make adaptive optics compact and affordable enough for the amature astronomer?

Wouldn't it be the bee's knees though?! To be able to peer through our atmosphere without any atmospheric distortion? Or basicaly the equivelent of a space based telescope in your back garden....mmmmm :)

Michael

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That looks sweet!! But isnt that more guiding orientated rather than mesuring the current state if the atmosphere and then making the necessary adjustments to compensate.

But i supoise adaptive optics is a general term and could be used for lots of applications?

Thanks for the reply though..maybe somthing for me in the the future? :)

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I saw a program on TV 'Mysteries of the Universe' I think :)

Anyway they showed an observatory on a mountain top using state of the art adaptive optics to remove atmospheric distortion. They were trying to detect planets orbiting distant stars by looking for the 'wobble' in magnetude / brightness of the star. Once they detected a planet they then calculated its size and orbit. Obviously any distortion would throw the data so they fired a lazer into the night sky then used the computer connected to adaptive optics to correct for the distortion in the beam. Very cool!

No idea anything like was available to a keen amateur :D

Probably a little over budget right now :)

Clear skies!

Mark

Edited by Specman
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Well the SBIG one (and the starlight xpress) compensate for atmospheric turbulence via the guiding system so the telescope does not end up chasing the seeing thus reducing the number of required corrections, thus increasing the fine detail captured. While different to adaptive optics in pro scopes, it does have a similar desired effect!

Eddie

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Do you think they will ever be able to make adaptive optics compact and affordable enough for the amature astronomer?

Wouldn't it be the bee's knees though?! To be able to peer through our atmosphere without any atmospheric distortion? Or basicaly the equivelent of a space based telescope in your back garden....mmmmm :)

Michael

Honestly i think it will be possible to do so in the very near future.

Think back to when mobile phones first arrived on the market and how big and heavy they were. Now look at them.

Mmmmm adaptive optic

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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Yes I think it's just a matter of time.

20 years ago hardly anyone could afford a decent enough telescope to enjoy astronomy and actually see anything.

Astrophotography was even more outragious and plain out of reach for the average person. (altho it's still expensive today, prices have dropped enormously).

Today anyone can buy a decent telescope and enjoy the night sky.

So it's just a matter of time. Think with adaptive optics, it will be another 10 years or so tho. Till it becomes within reach for the average consumer.

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I don't think laser-guided adaptive optics (as opposed to existing autoguider-driven AO units) will become available on the consumer market. One example that drives my reasoning is the way that current astro-CCD camera vendors do not manufacture their own CCD sensors and have to rely on components that were originally designed and produced for non-astro purposes, such as the CCD sensors themselves. Durnig the move to larger sensor sizes, we moved away from the super-sensitive super-low-noise Sony Super-HAD to the more noisy (but still good) Kodak sensors because Sony doesn't produce large format mono sensors. Sony obviously don´t see a market for producing a mono-derivative of the APS-sized colour CCD sensors, despite a large-format mono Super-HAD CCD having been the Holy Grail of imagers for many years. It´s proof that the manufacturers of specialist compoents see astronomy as just a drip in the ocean as far as their market is concerned. The sort of Adaptive Optics used in Keck, Gemini, Palomar would surely need components that don´t exist yet on the consumer electronics, and I don't see how any semiconductor manufacturers would develop anything specially for astronomical purposes, just like they never developed CCD sensors specially for us. But I hope I'm wrong!

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I don't think laser guide-star adaptive optics will ever be available to amateurs, based purely on the health and safety requirements (the lasers you need are thousands of times more powerful than laser pointers).

Natural guide star adaptive optics (using a deformable mirror, unlike AO-7 type systems which only do tip/tilt correction) I think may well come along, but we're a long way from being able to rival HST I'm afraid. The first thing to remember is that nearly all the professional systems you see work in the near-infrared wavelengths of 1000-2500nm. There are currently very few (no?) professional systems which work in the visible part of the spectrum (400-600nm), because it is a lot lot harder to do!

Another thing which I guess a lot of people don't appreciate is the very limited field of view of adaptive optics. The corrected field of view in the visible at a good site (say 1" natural seeing), is only 20-30 arcseconds in size. For example, if you looked a the ring nebula (M57) with your AO system, and used the central star as the guide star (which probably isn't bright enough anyway, but ignore that for just now) -- the correction wouldn't even reach the edge of the ring nebula... For planets however, this could be absolutely stunning, if you could get a reference source near enough (use the moons of Saturn, for example).

This is a physical limitation of the atmosphere, and an inherent property of any AO system using only one guide star. There are ways around it using multiple guide stars -- but these are only at the prototype stage even on professional telescopes.

Tip-tilt systems like AO-7 are a lot more promising in the near term however. There are quite a few obvious improvements one could make to the current systems; primarily in the speed they work at. The current generation only run at 20-30Hz. This isn't fast enough to correct true atmospheric tip-tilt, but does a very good job to taking out vibrations/tracking errors in the telescope mount. There are few obvious paths to upgrade these to run at >100Hz, and include focus, and then you'd get quite a big image quality improvement for small telescopes.

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