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First Light For Subaru Telescope's Adaptive Optics

Mauna Kea, Hawaii – December 12, 2000:   The Subaru Telescope's Adaptive Optics (AO) has seen first light. The observing team has confirmed that the AO system provides image quality close to Subaru's  
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  theoretical limit.

The Subaru AO system has a curvature sensor to monitor the atmospheric turbulence and a bimorph deformable mirror to compensate for this turbulence, resulting in much sharper images. After attaching the AO system to the Cassegrain focus of Subaru Telescope in November, test observations were made with IRCS (InfraRed Camera and Spectrograph) from December 1 to 3, 2000.

The left figure shows a stellar image taken using the imaging mode of IRCS without AO. The star's appearance is extended due to the atmospheric turbulence. The right figure is the same star after switching on the adaptive optics. The image is much brighter and clearer, with the image quality improving from 0.33 arcsec in the left figure to 0.07 arcsec in
Subaru AO First Light Subaru adaptive optics first light image taken with the IRCS InfraRed Camera and Spectrograph.
 Image:   © Subaru Telescope,
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ),
Science With Adaptive Optics, Brandner
the right figure. The fringe which can be seen around the star in the right figure indicates that we are very close to the maximum theoretical (diffraction-limited) performance of Subaru, which is limited by the size of the primary mirror and the wavelength of the observation.

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