I’d like to recognize the Robo-AO team at Mt. Kitt. They have done a great job of transferring the instrument from Palomar and within a short time, got a season of imaging in, resulting in a number of papers and posters that were presented at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation. We’re really excited to hear that they are back up and observing after the monsoon season. I’m sure we will be getting some more great results from the team. For those who don’t know, Robo-AO is “the first autonomous laser adaptive optics system and science instrument operating on sky. The system robotically executes large scale surveys, monitors long-term astrophysical dynamics and characterizes newly discovered transients, all at the visible diffraction limit. The first of many envisioned systems has finished over 180 nights of science observing at the Palomar Observatory 60-inch telescope (with over 19,000 robotic observations executed)”. In 2015 it was moved from Palomar to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. Boston Micromachines is proud to have worked with the Principal Investigator, Christoph Baranec, on a small part of this instrument, as the deformable mirror chosen for this back in 2009 was a BMC Multi-DM (pictured).
The 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.