A review of astronomical science with visible light adaptive optics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


We review astronomical results in the visible (λ<1μm) with adaptive optics. Other than a brief period in the early 1990s, there has been little (<1 paper/yr) night-Time astronomical science published with AO in the visible from 2000-2013 (outside of the solar or Space Surveillance Astronomy communities where visible AO is the norm, but not the topic of this invited review). However, since mid-2013 there has been a rapid increase visible AO with over 50 refereed science papers published in just ∼2.5 years (visible AO is experiencing a rapid growth rate very similar to that of NIR AO science from 1997-2000; Close 2000). Currently the most productive small (D < 2 m) visible light AO telescope is the UV-LGS Robo-AO system (Baranec, et al. 2016) on the robotic Palomar D=1.5 m telescope (currently relocated to the Kitt Peak 1.8m; Salama et al. 2016). Robo-AO uniquely offers the ability to target >15 objects/hr, which has enabled large (>3000 discrete targets) companion star surveys and has resulted in 23 refereed science publications. The most productive large telescope visible AO system is the D=6.5m Magellan telescope AO system (MagAO). MagAO is an advanced Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) AO system at the Magellan 6.5m in Chile (Morzinski et al. 2016). This ASM secondary has 585 actuators with < 1 msec response times (0.7 ms typically). MagAO utilizes a 1 kHz pyramid wavefront sensor. The relatively small actuator pitch (∼22 cm/subap) allows moderate Strehls to be obtained in the visible (0.63-1.05 microns). Long exposures (60s) achieve <30mas resolutions, 30% Strehls at 0.62 microns (r') with the VisAO camera in 0.5" seeing with bright R ≤ 9 mag stars. These capabilities have led to over 22 MagAO refereed science publications in the visible. The largest (D=8m) telescope to achieve regular visible AO science is SPHERE/ZIMPOL. ZIMPOL is a polarimeter fed by the ∼1.2 kHz SPHERE ExAO system (Fusco et al. 2016). ZIMPOL's ability to differentiate scattered polarized light from starlight allows the sensitive detection of circumstellar disks, stellar surfaces, and envelopes of evolved AGB stars. Here we review the key steps to having good performance in the visible and review the exciting new AO visible science opportunities and science results in the fields of: exoplanet detection; circumstellar and protoplanetary disks; young stars; AGB stars; emission line jets; and stellar surfaces. The recent rapid increase in the scientific publications and power of visible AO is due to the maturity of the next-generation of AO systems and our new ability probe circumstellar regions with very high (10-30 mas) spatial resolutions that would otherwise require much larger (>10m) diameter telescopes in the infrared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdaptive Optics Systems V
EditorsEnrico Marchetti, Jean-Pierre Veran, Laird M. Close
ISBN (Electronic)9781510601970
StatePublished - 2016
EventAdaptive Optics Systems V - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jul 1 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherAdaptive Optics Systems V
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Adaptive Secondary Mirror
  • High-Contrast
  • Visible Adaptive Optics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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