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