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Extreme Adaptive Optics (ExAO)

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 ( Adaptive Optics for Extremely Large Telescopes).

One goal of this theme is the direct detection of extrasolar planets with the eXtreme Adaptive Optics Planet Imager, a 4096-actuator AO system.

CfAO Associate Director Dr. Scot Olivier has generated an overview of this theme.

Last Modified: Jul 16, 2003 

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