First tests of wavefront sensing with a constellation of laser guide beacons

M. Lloyd-Hart, C. Baranec, N. M. Milton, T. Stalcup, M. Snyder, N. Putnam, J. R.P. Angel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Adaptive optics to correct current telescopes over wide fields, or even to correct future very large telescopes over narrow fields, will require real-time wavefront measurements made with a constellation of laser beacons. Here we report the first such measurements, made at the 6.5 m MMT with five Rayleigh beacons in a 2× pentagon. Each beacon is made with a pulsed beam at 532 nm of 4 W at the exit pupil of the projector. The return is range-gated from 20 to 29 km and recorded at 53 Hz by a 3 6-element Shack-Hartmann sensor. Wavefronts derived from the beacons are compared with simultaneous wavefronts obtained for individual natural stars within or near the constellation. Observations were made in seeing averaging 1.″0 with two-thirds of the aberration measured to be from a ground layer of mean height 380 m. Under these conditions, subtraction of the simple instantaneous average of the five beacon wavefronts from the stellar wavefronts yielded a 40% rms reduction in the measured modes of the distortion over a 2′ field. We discuss the use of multiple Rayleigh beacons as an alternative to single sodium beacons on 8 m telescopes and the impact of the new work on the design of a multi-sodium beacon system for the 25 m Giant Magellan Telescope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-686
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Nov 20 2005


  • Atmospheric effects
  • Instrumentation: adaptive optics
  • Instrumentation: high angular resolution
  • Telescopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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