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Fraunhofer IOSB: Talk on Adaptive Optics


Adaptive optics is a technology of correcting the effect of atmospheric turbulence on images of space objects and laser beams propagating through turbulence. It was developed by US military starting in the late 1960s, then extended to high-energy laser weapons as part of the ballistic missile defense programs like the Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as “Star Wars”). Especially significant advances were made by the scientists at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and MIT/Lincoln Laboratory who carried out the first laser guide star experiments, creating artificial beacons in the sky.

In parallel, astronomers have been working on adaptive optics systems for viewing celestial bodies. The “killer application” of adaptive optics, identified by the astronomical community in the late 1990s, is the direct imaging of extrasolar planets – planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. Defined specifically for this purpose extreme adaptive optics is the technology aiming at imaging of objects which are 106 to 109 fainter than their host stars. These systems, when viewed without adaptive optics, are completely swamped by the light of the bright stars.

The most recent application of adaptive optics is in ophthalmology. Only after compensation for ocular aberrations is it possible to view cones and rods in the human retina in vivo. Conversely, in the near future it might be possible to design adaptive contact lenses or glasses giving a person wearing them “supernormal vision”.


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19. January 2013 by Anirudh
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