CfAO Fall Retreat: high contrast chats in the hills

Hello from Arizonans in California! I just got back from the UC Santa Cruz Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO) Fall retreat, where members of the AO work through some of the pressing problems in the field. This year was focused on High Contrast imaging testbeds, lessons learned from Magellan’s MagAO-X and Subaru’s SCExAO and what might be in the cards for Keck, and a round up of adaptive Secondary progress – LBTO, MMT, and the future of IRTF, KECK, and beyond.

The Arizona Telescopes representing, Me representing MagAO-X (Magellan Clay), Robin and Jacob the Toronto part of MAPS (MMT), and Sam Ragland (LBTO)

Some of the likely suspects were around, namely Jacob and Robin from UToronto representing MMT calibration work and Sam Ragland from LBTO operations. Thanks to a very generous student scholarship from the workshop organizers, I was able to attend and represent MagAO-X’s progress.

If someone had taken a picture of me presenting, it would look a little like this.

Sam’s update on the LBT’s progress was some of the most concrete work concerning a long-term Facility adaptive secondary, in this case using adOptica technology. Sam discussed the re-coating of the secondary, and future plans, including adopting an ASM from CHile, close to this group’s heart.

Sam Ragland giving an update talk on LBTO’s work with Adaptive Secondaries.

Jacob got the longest student talk of the conference, and got to spend an hour discussing his method for calibrating on sky. A key difference between the LBTO and other telescopes discussed being that LBTO is a Gregorian design with an intermediate focus that allows for daytime calibrations of their secondary. MAPS and systems like IRTF and Keck are Cassegrain design with no focuses before the primary, and can only take calibration matrices on a bright star on sky. Making the operating software and calibration procedure robust in the meantime is a huge step towards making these systems reliable and facility class.

Jacob Taylor presenting on one method MAPS uses for on sky calibrations.

We also got one last GMT talk from Antonin, who has recently moved from his role on GMT to the AO scientist for the Keck twin 10ms. He gave an update on the current design of the GMT adaptive secondaries, which will be using a similar technology to what’s currently on LBT. In fact, we learned that the rigorous modeling and testing on the GMT prototypes solved a resonance issue that LBT had unexplained.

Antonin Bouchez reprising his past role of GMT AO lead to talk about advancements in the GMT secondary design. He has recently accepted an AO position at Keck.

I cannot express how grateful I am to have a community that shares and collaborates as this one does. Even though MagAO-X is already built, there’s a lot to learn from the discussions that Keck is having about their own testbed. As in, what areas of interest are already met by our technology? What new avenues are being pursued? And where do all fit in the the US high contrast family?

Took a quick break to see the hills of Santa Cruz

Thank you to everyone who made this conference so fruitful! And to the organizing committee for the student scholarship.

Conference participant photo, filtered by who stayed till Sunday.

Song of the Day

Berkeley Girl by Harper Simon