Emily is an Oregon native, currently working toward her bachelor’s degree in Astronomy at UH Hilo.  Emily loves explaining astronomical concepts, so she enjoys both working at ‘Imiloa Planetarium and volunteering at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.  She is considering a career in astronomy education and outreach, and is eager to work with all aspects of the astronomy community.  In her free time, Emily enjoys writing, watching movies, and maintaining her meager social life.

Home Island:
High School:
Institute when accepted: UH Hilo

Assembling an Adaptive-Optics Demonstration Kit for UH Hilo
Project Site: UH Institute for Astronomy
Mentor: Dr. Mark Chun

Project Abstract:

Adaptive optics is a relatively new technology being used by most large telescopes. These systems make the use of deformable mirrors (whose surfaces can change shape on small scales) to correct for distortions of light caused by turbulent air currents in the atmosphere.  A small adaptive optics kit was purchased by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo through ThorLabs.  This kit can be used for educational purposes and demonstrations of adaptive optics, but first it must be assembled.  The kit is composed of a small deformable mirror and a wavefront sensor, both key components in adaptive optics.  In addition to these vital elements, the kit contains a small laser to simulate an object, a beam splitter, and a series of lenses to simulate our telescope.  Aberration plates were also constructed using Plexiglas and spray-on coatings — these can be introduced into the system to simulate turbulence in the atmosphere.  The deformable mirror was characterized using a Zygo Interferometer to confirm that its shape would conform to expectations, and the focal lengths of the lenses were verified.  When the system is aligned properly, it now automatically corrects for many of the aberrations as they are introduced.