Principal Investigator for Robo-AO
Caltech Optical Observatorie
Christoph Baranec and his team at Caltech Optical Observatories, and in collaboration with colleagues at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, have deployed Robo-AO at the 1.5-m telescope at Palomar Mountain, CA. Robo-AO is the first automated laser adaptive optics system in the world. The system delivers diffraction-limited resolution observing at visible and near-infrared wavelengths for up to two hundred targets per night. Robo-AO is able to robotically execute large scale surveys, monitor long-term astrophysical dynamics and characterize newly discovered transients in a way not feasible with large diameter telescope adaptive optics systems.
Robo-AO brings adaptive optics technology, normally limited to much larger telescopes with larger budgets, to small and mid-size telescopes, increasing their imaging power. Because it automates the processes, efficiency is increased, less effort is required and researchers are able to carry out many more observations per night than by observing manually. Additionally, because the system is robotic it can rapidly respond to new discoveries such as supernovae or repeatedly observe targets over time providing the ability to monitor weather on other planets in the solar system. Boston Micromachines’ Multi-DM is used by Robo-AO to dramatically improve the quality of the telescope’s images by correcting for the degrading aberrations caused by atmospheric turbulence.
The Robo-AO system is supported by collaborating partner institutions, the California Institute of Technology and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. AST-0906060 and AST-0960343, by a grant from the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation and by a gift from Samuel Oschin.
Below is a time-lapse movie of the Robo-AO in action.
The video was taken during an observing run in August that was close to the full moon.