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The Center's Education and Research Themes

The Center has organized its Research and Education Outreach into four Themes. The reason for this approach was to encourage greater collaboration between researchers, identify lasting Center monuments or achievements, develop a road map with milestones to help ensure success, foster interactions between astronomers and vision scientists, and increase understanding of the Center's educational and human resources goals on the part of all researchers and expand opportunities to share in the achievement of these goals.

Theme 1: Education & Human Resources

The Education and Human Resources Program is structured so as to integrate CfAO research within its activities.
The four goals of CfAO's Education activities are to:

  1. Increase the versatility of Center graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through exposure and training in the diverse fields within the CfAO research and education programs.
  2. Increase the number of underrepresented students from partner high schools who are prepared and motivated to pursue an SMET degree in college (2-year or 4-year).
  3. Establish a center-based model for the retention and advancement of under-represented college students, or potential college students, into the scientific or technical workforce, or next educational level.
  4. Increase the interest in and knowledge of CfAO science and technology in the broader community,

Theme 2 - AO for Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs):

The highest recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences' Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee (2001) was the design and construction of a ground-based 30-m telescope, equipped with adaptive optics (a giant segmented mirror telescope, or GSMT). Developing an adequate adaptive optics system for this telescope will be extremely challenging and will require developments in most technical areas of adaptive optics. Making a major contribution towards achieving this national priority is a natural and suitable objective for the CfAO. The benefits of multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MCAO) include widening the diffraction-limited field of view and achieving near-complete sky coverage with laser beacons (by overcoming the cone effect). While the ultimate implementation of a MCAO system for a 30-m telescope will require both time and resources far beyond the scope of the CfAO, we believe that we can develop the crucial concepts and components needed for its successful implementation.

Theme 3: Extreme Adaptive Optics (eXAO) enabling ultra-high-contrast astronomical observations

The ExAO theme is scientifically driven by the need to achieve high-contrast imaging and spectroscopic capabilities to enhance the detection and characterization of extra-solar planetary systems and their precursor disk material. By improving image quality, ExAO systems enable the detection of faint objects close to bright sources that would otherwise overwhelm them. This is accomplished both by increasing the peak intensity of point-source images and by removing light scattered by the atmosphere and the telescope optics into the "seeing disk". This combination of effects can dramatically improve the achievable contrast ratio for astronomical observations.

The primary goal of this theme is to catalyze the development of the next generation of high-order adaptive optics systems in order to achieve unprecedented capabilities for high-contrast astronomy. This will require activities in ExAO system design along with the design of instruments, such as coronagraphs, optimized for high-contrast observations. Additional crucial activities include the development of new simulation capabilities for ExAO systems and instruments, along with better characterization of the performance existing high-order AO systems, and the development of new technologies in high-order wavefront correction devices, such as MEMS deformable mirrors, and in wavefront control system algorithms and architectures. Ongoing scientific utilization of high-contrast observational capabilities and development of data processing techniques optimized for high-contrast observations are also critical activities for this theme. This theme is likely to share many cross-cutting issues with Theme 2.

Theme 4: Compact Vision Science Instrumentation for Clinical and Scientific Use

Ophthalmic AO systems have been demonstrated in the laboratory for scientific research. The next horizon is to engineer compact, robust AO systems for use in clinics as well as scientific laboratories. The long-term goal is to commercialize a compact AO system for ophthalmic applications. Along the way, these new and existing AO systems will be used to advance our understanding of human vision, and to explore medical applications of adaptive optics. This is a crucial way to provide feedback for the utility of the advanced AO designs.

Last Modified: Apr 8, 2008 

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