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Adaptive optics flexes for sharper images

21 Dec 2007

French firm CILAS has unveiled a deformable mirror with 1377 piezoelectric actuators.

A deformable mirror with 1377 piezoelectric actuators will soon be helping astronomers in Chile to study extra-solar planets in greater detail. Developed by CILAS, the mirror will be deployed on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory and will correct wavefront distortion in real time to produce clear images.

CILAS hopes that the mirror's large number of actuators, together with actuator bandwidth, stroke and accurate control of the optical surface will enable the VLT to provide superb images with high contrast between the star and its companion planet.

The mirror will be installed on the spectro-polarimetric high-contrast exoplanet research (Sphere) instrument, a component of one of VLT's 8m telescopes. Sphere is said to be one of the most powerful and challenging astronomical tools being built. It is a second generation instrument that will be used for the direct imaging and study of extra-solar planets.

CILAS has already delivered fourteen adaptive mirrors to the European Southern Observatory, operators of the Paranal Observatory. It claims that all of its mirrors are optimized for high-resolution imaging and laser beam correction.

The development was funded by the European Southern Observatory and by the FP6 optical infrared coordination network for astronomy project of the European Commission.

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