Daytime use of adaptive optics (AO) at large telescopes is hampered by shot noise from the bright sky background. Wave-front sensing may use a sodium laser guide star observed through a magneto-optical filter to suppress the background, but the laser beacon is not sensitive to overall image motion. To estimate that, laser-guided AO systems generally rely on light from the object itself, collected through the full aperture of the telescope. Daylight sets a lower limit to the brightness of an object that may be tracked at rates sufficient to overcome the image jitter. Below that limit wave-front correction on the basis of the laser alone will yield an image that is approximately diffraction limited, but that moves randomly. I describe a new iterative registration algorithm that recovers high-resolution long exposure images in this regime from a rapid series of short exposures with very low signal-to-noise ratio. The technique takes advantage of the fact that in the photon noise limit there is negligible penalty in taking short exposures, and also that once the images are recorded, it is not necessary, as in the case of an AO tracker loop, to estimate the image motion correctly and quickly on every cycle. The algorithm is likely to find application in space situational awareness, where high-resolution daytime imaging of artificial satellites is important.
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