Science and Engineering
California Association for Research in Astronomy
In 2004, the Keck II Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGS AO) system was the first LGS system on a large telescope. The primary goal of this project is to improve the scientific performance of the AO system by procuring and implementing a next generation laser. Secondary goals include: (1) operational improvements (such as laser reliability and efficiency) associated with replacing an aging experimental laser with a commercial product; and (2) continued development of WMKO’s next generation AO system. The existing AO system uses a 13 W pulsed dye laser to excite the sodium atoms in the mesosphere. The level of AO correction is limited by the laser power and especially by the low coupling efficiency of a pulsed laser to the sodium atoms. Continuous wave lasers have been demonstrated to have about 10 times the coupling efficiency of the dye laser. The WMKO team has been collaborating with the European Southern Observatory and a consortium of U.S. observatories to develop a 20 W commercial continuous wave laser. The resultant laser has been demonstrated in the lab by a consortium of two laser vendors, TOPTICA and MPBC, and has completed its final design. This next generation laser, meeting all specifications, is now available and will sustain the Observatory’s leadership in LGS AO science for years to come.
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