NRL Portable Adaptive Optics for Optical Interferometry
NAVAL RESEARCH LAB WASHINGTON DC REMOTE SENSING DIV
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Our ability to collect reliable visual or infrared imagery of exo-atmospheric objects, both astronomical and man-made, is limited by two factors. The first is the turbulence of the Earths atmosphere for telescopes larger than 10 to 20 cm, turbulence introduces significant wavefront distortions. The second factor that limits our ability to image ever finer details is the maximum practical size of a single telescope. The largest telescopes are currently 10 m in diameter, corresponding to a resolution limit of - 0.2 arc sec at visual wavelengths. One approach to overcoming the size limitation is to build an array of several smaller telescopes to synthesize an equivalent telescope of a diameter equal to their largest separation. This technique is known as interferometry. However, if the individual telescopes are larger than 10 to 20 cm, atmospheric turbulence is still a problem to be reckoned with. One way to solve this problem is to develop a system that removes the wavefront distortions in real time. Such systems are known as adaptive optical systems, or adaptive optics AO for short. Combining AO with interferometry will increase our ability to image finer details on fainter objects.