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SPIE Astro 2018. Exoplanets galore

Posted by Michael Feinberg on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

Tags: deformable mirror, adaptive optics, SPIE, telescopes, NASA, astronomy, Robo-AO, exoplanet

I attended the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation event in Austin, Texas recently and while I enjoyed the music and incredible bar-b-que,  I thought it might be a good idea to summarize what I learned and the most interesting things mentioned about adaptive optics research.

Exoplanet research is alive and well

I am happy to say this.  We have been developing bigger and better mirrors for both ground-based and space-based telescopes here at BMC and they are targeted specifically for this use.

Here are the programs which I heard the most about last week:

MagAOX

Our 2K-DM will be shipping soon to the folks at the Magellan Telescope working on MagAOX, their planet-finding instrument. And, we have been discussing the design of gthe next generation instrument for the Giant Magellan Telescope, GMagAOX, which includes no less than seven 3K-DMs totaling over 21,000 actuators to be used for an order-of-magnitude higher level of control.  Logo Credit: Kyle Van Gorkom, University of Arizona

While I am sad to see the Gemini Planet Imager instrument mission end at the Gemini South Observatory (which includes our 4K-DM), I am excited for the next phase that is set to begin at Gemini North in Hawaii.  The location study is ongoing and will yield which components will get an upgrade.  While I am always excited about delivering a newer, better DM, I am proud of the performance of the 4K-DM and would be just as happy if that workhorse kept on running!

SCExAO just  keeps on going.  That is all.

SCExAO 2K DM

Seriously, though.  The expected science yield from this instrument is extremely exciting and I look forward to seeing more images in the near future!  Check out their site hereImage credit:  Olivier Guyon, University of Arizona

Finally, on the space-based front, Habex and LUVOIR designs are in motion and both are baselining BMC’s technology for the final design. Click the link here to see a recent article about AO and see a picture of the layout of our biggest mirror, the 8K-DM.  I have a quote 😊.

Don’t forget about all of the other science!

There is so much else going on and I couldn’t possibly list it all. Work at Lawrence Livermore National Labs is ongoing to develop an extremely low latency AO system called “LLAMAS.” Small(ish) telescopes are utilized as well to do some amazing data collection. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Robo-AO which is now in the process of moving from Kitt Peak to the UH88 telescope in Hawaii.  And, Robo-AO2, otherwise known and the Rapid Transit Surveyor, is in the midst of design and build and will be online soon.

Rapid Transit Surveyor

Rapid Transit Surveyor.  Image Credit:  Christoph Baranec

Final thoughts

The astronomical instrumentation field is alive and well and adaptive optics has become an integral part of almost all of the major installations in service, being built or being designed.  We are excited for the field and especially proud to be involved in the programs that required our high speed, high resolution devices to push science forward! 

SPIE Mirror Tech Days: Highlights and Takeaways

Posted by Michael Feinberg on Wed, Sep 05, 2012 @ 02:11 PM

Tags: deformable mirror, mirror technology, BMC, imaging systems, SPIE, Photonics West, telescopes, NASA, SBIR/STTR

 

describe the imageThe SPIE Mirror Technology SBIR/STTR Workshop was held in Rochester, NY this year at the end of July. This is always a good conference for BMC, and we go every year.  The conference can best be summarized from their website:

Tech Days annually summarizes the USA Government's investment strategies and activities in developing technology for any application (such as telescopes, imaging systems, seeker/trackers, high-energy laser systems, solar energy, etc.) which requires optical components. Tech Days covers technology investment efforts in: optical materials; substrate design & manufacture; optical fabrication and metrology technology; optical coatings; wavefront sensing and control via adaptive optics; nano-technology imaging technologies; etc.

I highlighted the text for emphasis as to why we attend:  You can see why this is a great place for BMC to be. We get to present the latest progress on our NASA SBIRs (of which we have 4 ongoing), see some of the other great research that is going on in the field, and learn from the NASA Program Scientist what the future needs are for mirror technology.  Also this year, BMC was a sponsor/exhibitor.  This gave us a chance to set up a table displaying some mirrors and information about our products and technology. It was in a great spot at the conference where lunch, coffee breaks and the Tuesday night reception were held. While the conference was not as big as some other SPIE events (e.g. Photonics West and Optics and Photonics), it was a great opportunity to meet with some key people.

A couple of takeaways from the meeting were

(1)    NASA SBIR/STTR program is strong and growing. 

They are using the research funding they have for strategic programs that will help with technology development, which was called out in the decadal survey  as an, if not the, important push for the next ten years.

(2)    There is a continuing need for BMC mirror technology. 

There are a number of projects that will require the wavefront control that our DMs can provide.

Both of these items point to a rich future for BMC and the deformable mirror industry as a whole. We look forward to connecting with these folks again next year and for many years to come.