94 research outputs found

    Wavefront sensing of atmospheric phase distortions at the Palomar 200-in. telescope and implications for adaptive optics

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    Major efforts in astronomical instrumentation are now being made to apply the techniques of adaptive optics to the correction of phase distortions induced by the turbulent atmosphere and by quasi-static aberrations in telescopes themselves. Despite decades of study, the problem of atmospheric turbulence is still only partially understood. We have obtained video-rate (30 Hz) imaging of stellar clusters and of single-star phase distortions over the pupil of the 200" Hale telescope on Palomar Mountain. These data show complex temporal and spatial behavior, with multiple components arising at a number of scale heights in the atmosphere; we hope to quantify this behavior to ensure the feasibility of adaptive optics at the Observatory. We have implemented different wavefront sensing techniques to measure aperture phase in wavefronts from single stars, including the classical Foucault test, which measures the local gradient of phase, and the recently-devised curvature sensing technique, which measures the second derivative of pupil phase and has formed the real-time wavefront sensor for some very productive astronomical adaptive optics. Our data, though not fast enough to capture all details of atmospheric phase fluctuations, provide important information regarding the capabilities that must be met by the adaptive optics system now being built for the 200" telescope by a team at the Jet Propulsion Lab. We describe our data acquisition techniques, initial results from efforts to characterize the properties of the turbulent atmosphere at Palomar Mountain, and future plans to extract additional quantitative parameters of use for adaptive optics performance predictions

    Self-Nulling Beam Combiner Using No External Phase Inverter

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    A self-nulling beam combiner is proposed that completely eliminates the phase inversion subsystem from the nulling interferometer, and instead uses the intrinsic phase shifts in the beam splitters. Simplifying the flight instrument in this way will be a valuable enhancement of mission reliability. The tighter tolerances on R = T (R being reflection and T being transmission coefficients) required by the self-nulling configuration actually impose no new constraints on the architecture, as two adaptive nullers must be situated between beam splitters to correct small errors in the coatings. The new feature is exploiting the natural phase shifts in beam combiners to achieve the 180 phase inversion necessary for nulling. The advantage over prior art is that an entire subsystem, the field-flipping optics, can be eliminated. For ultimate simplicity in the flight instrument, one might fabricate coatings to very high tolerances and dispense with the adaptive nullers altogether, with all their moving parts, along with the field flipper subsystem. A single adaptive nuller upstream of the beam combiner may be required to correct beam train errors (systematic noise), but in some circumstances phase chopping reduces these errors substantially, and there may be ways to further reduce the chop residuals. Though such coatings are beyond the current state of the art, the mechanical simplicity and robustness of a flight system without field flipper or adaptive nullers would perhaps justify considerable effort on coating fabrication

    On Calculating the Zero-Gravity Surface Figure of a Mirror

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    An analysis of the classical method of calculating the zero-gravity surface figure of a mirror from surface-figure measurements in the presence of gravity has led to improved understanding of conditions under which the calculations are valid. In this method, one measures the surface figure in two or more gravity- reversed configurations, then calculates the zero-gravity surface figure as the average of the surface figures determined from these measurements. It is now understood that gravity reversal is not, by itself, sufficient to ensure validity of the calculations: It is also necessary to reverse mounting forces, for which purpose one must ensure that mountingfixture/ mirror contacts are located either at the same places or else sufficiently close to the same places in both gravity-reversed configurations. It is usually not practical to locate the contacts at the same places, raising the question of how close is sufficiently close. The criterion for sufficient closeness is embodied in the St. Venant principle, which, in the present context, translates to a requirement that the distance between corresponding gravity-reversed mounting positions be small in comparison to their distances to the optical surface of the mirror. The necessity of reversing mount forces is apparent in the behavior of the equations familiar from finite element analysis (FEA) that govern deformation of the mirror

    Design considerations for a novel phase-contrast adaptive-optic wavefront sensor

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    The wavefront sensor (WFS) is perhaps the most critical adaptive-optic subsystem, particularly for astronomical applications with natural guide stars, where current WFS sensitivity limitations seriously restrict sky coverage. In this paper, we discuss the possibility of a WFS based on a phase-contrast principle of the sort employed by Zernike for microscopy. Such a WFS would be implemented by inserting a focal-plane filter with a (pi) /2 phase-shifting central spot having a transverse size of the order of the diffraction limit. The result would be an image of the pupil in which intensity is directly proportional to the seeing- and aberration-induced phase variations over the pupil. In comparison, the signals produced by the two most common current WFS schemes, Shack-Hartmann and curvature sensing, are proportional to the phase slope and to the second derivative, respectively. The phase-contrast approach might derive some advantages stemming from its more natural match to the control eigenvectors of the electrostrictive deformable mirrors that are expected to predominate in high-order adaptive optics systems, in the same way that curvature sensors are currently well matched to bimorph mirrors. It may thus yield substantial performance improvements with simpler hardware and lighter computational loads. We examine this and other possible advantages of the phase-contrast WFS, and investigate some of the practical design issues involved in its implementation

    Diffraction-limited spatial resolution of circumstellar shells at 10 microns

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    A new spatial array instrument provided diffraction-limited mid-infrared intensity profiles of the type-M supergiant stars alpha Orionis and alpha Scorpii, both of which are known to exhibit excess 10 microns radiation due to the presence of circumstellar dust shells. In the case of alpha Ori, there is a marked asymmetry in the dust distribution, with peak intensity of dust emission a distance of 0.9 inches from the star

    Transverse Pupil Shifts for Adaptive Optics Non-Common Path Calibration

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    A simple new way of obtaining absolute wavefront measurements with a laboratory Fizeau interferometer was recently devised. In that case, the observed wavefront map is the difference of two cavity surfaces, those of the mirror under test and of an unknown reference surface on the Fizeau s transmission flat. The absolute surface of each can be determined by applying standard wavefront reconstruction techniques to two grids of absolute surface height differences of the mirror under test, obtained from pairs of measurements made with slight transverse shifts in X and Y. Adaptive optics systems typically provide an actuated periscope between wavefront sensor (WFS) and commonmode optics, used for lateral registration of deformable mirror (DM) to WFS. This periscope permits independent adjustment of either pupil or focal spot incident on the WFS. It would be used to give the required lateral pupil motion between common and non-common segments, analogous to the lateral shifts of the two phase contributions in the lab Fizeau. The technique is based on a completely new approach to calibration of phase. It offers unusual flexibility with regard to the transverse spatial frequency scales probed, and will give results quite quickly, making use of no auxiliary equipment other than that built into the adaptive optics system. The new technique may be applied to provide novel calibration information about other optical systems in which the beam may be shifted transversely in a controlled way

    Statistics of remnant speckles in an adaptively corrected imaging system

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    Understanding the statistics of remnant speckles in the halo of an adaptively-corrected point-spread function is critically important to using adaptive optics in high-dynamic-range searches for faint companions. It has been clear for some time that photon (Poisson) statistics alone do not adequately account for noise in the halo, as the coherent nature of speckles gives them a temporal persistence that leads to a much larger noise contribution, termed speckle noise. I consider in this paper the physical mechanism for speckle formation, and show that residual speckles, in the case of highly corrected adaptive optics systems, tend to be pinned to secondary maxima (Airy rings) in the underlying diffraction-limited point-spread function, affecting their spatial distribution in an important way. Further, in current practical adaptive optics systems, the structure of the Airy rings will shift over relatively short time scales in response to flexure-induced non-common-path errors, modifying the temporal evolution of the statistics of the speckle distribution as well

    High spectral and spatial resolution observations of the 12.28 micron emission from H2 in the Orion molecular cloud

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    The pure rotational S(2) line of molecular hydrogen at 12.28 microns was looked for in 44 positions in the Orion moleular cloud with 6 in. beams and 35 km/s spectral resolution; it was detected in 27 positions. Emission was observed over a velocity range of + or - 100 km/s. The lines are approximately symmetric, and have full widths at half maximum ranging from 100 km/s down to the resolution limit. The distribution of intensities and line shapes is largely consistent with that seen in the 2 micron hydrogen transitions. However, unexpectedly complex line profiles and point-to-point variations in linear shapes appear, particularly in the region near IRc9

    Design considerations for a novel phase-contrast adaptive-optic wavefront sensor

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    The wavefront sensor (WFS) is perhaps the most critical adaptive-optic subsystem, particularly for astronomical applications with natural guide stars, where current WFS sensitivity limitations seriously restrict sky coverage. In this paper, we discuss the possibility of a WFS based on a phase-contrast principle of the sort employed by Zernike for microscopy. Such a WFS would be implemented by inserting a focal-plane filter with a (pi) /2 phase-shifting central spot having a transverse size of the order of the diffraction limit. The result would be an image of the pupil in which intensity is directly proportional to the seeing- and aberration-induced phase variations over the pupil. In comparison, the signals produced by the two most common current WFS schemes, Shack-Hartmann and curvature sensing, are proportional to the phase slope and to the second derivative, respectively. The phase-contrast approach might derive some advantages stemming from its more natural match to the control eigenvectors of the electrostrictive deformable mirrors that are expected to predominate in high-order adaptive optics systems, in the same way that curvature sensors are currently well matched to bimorph mirrors. It may thus yield substantial performance improvements with simpler hardware and lighter computational loads. We examine this and other possible advantages of the phase-contrast WFS, and investigate some of the practical design issues involved in its implementation

    Extracting Zero-Gravity Surface Figure of a Mirror

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    The technical innovation involves refinement of the classic optical technique of averaging surface measurements made in different orientations with respect to gravity, so the effects of gravity cancel in the averaged image. Particularly for large, thin mirrors subject to substantial deformation, the further requirement is that mount forces must also cancel when averaged over measurement orientations. The zerogravity surface figure of a mirror in a hexapod mount is obtained by analyzing the summation of mount forces in the frame of the optic as surface metrology is averaged over multiple clockings. This is illustrated with measurements taken from the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) PT-Ml mirror for both twofold and threefold clocking. The positive results of these measurements and analyses indicate that, from this perspective, a lighter mirror could be used; that is, one might place less reliance on the damping effects of the elliptic partial differential equations that describe the propagation of forces through glass. The advantage over prior art is relaxing the need for an otherwise substantial thickness of glass that might be needed to ensure accurate metrology in the absence of a detailed understanding and analysis of the mount forces. The general insights developed here are new, and provide the basic design principles on which mirror mount geometry may be chosen
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