Stellar Products, inventors of the AO-2 Adaptive Optics system, is pleased to announce the development of the AO-5 Adaptive Optics system.
For telescopes between 10 cm and 40 cm, the AO-2 improves images simply by reducing overall motion, the two lowest order wavefront errors in atmospheric turbulence. In addition, the AO-2 reduces other larger sources of image motion, such as vibration, wind, and clock drive errors. In good seeing conditions, image resolution down to 0.2 arcsec is possible. The AO-2 is a low cost system, usable on the brighter planets and stars. Its field of view depends on the telescope and the seeing, but is roughly 100 arcsec.
The next level of adaptive optics reduces not only image motion (wavefront tip and tilt), but adds three more corrections: defocus and two types of astigmatism. This level of correction results in even better, diffraction limited images in typical seeing conditions for 10 cm to 40 cm telescopes. For larger telescopes, up to 100 cm, the corrections result in stellar images with bright, diffraction-limited cores. Additional image processing on results from any of these telescopes will result in sub-diffraction limit resolution.
The AO-5 also incorporates a more sensitive detector, permitting its use with stars or planets down to the 12th magnitude on meter-class telescopes. The field of view is smaller, due to the optics of the atmosphere, so large clock drive or vibration errors will exceed the correction limit. Even within these limits, there are a million different targets, including stars, double stars, galaxies, planetary nebulae, comet nuclei, asteroids, planets to Neptune, and many of their moons. The AO-5 optical layout is shown below.
The AO-5 runs on a personal computer with custom software. The software makes the system easy to operate by one person, and includes complete control over every sub-system and several types of data storage. The unit calibrates itself semi-automatically, on user command.
The AO-5 is expected to cost about $50,000, for deliveries anticipated in 2006. The AO-5 will be a low-volume system. While the design will be generalized to work with most telescopes, some slight customization may be required for individual users.
Stellar Products is the only commercial firm providing adaptive optics to the general public, the advanced amateur, and small institutions. The future of astronomy lies in adaptive optics, and we are pleased to be on that forefront!
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