A clear view of our sun

  • Published August 2017

Active Silicon’s Phoenix CoaXPress frame grabber has helped enable a break-through in the development of advanced adaptive optics, according to Dirk Schmidt, assistant scientist at the USA’s National Solar Observatory (NSO) and project scientist for the international MCAO team.

The multiple layers of atmospheric turbulence caused by the mixing of air masses with different temperatures present a serious challenge when observing any object in space, including the study of the sun. To overcome this problem, researchers have been advancing adaptive optics, a method that applies one or more flexible mirrors to compensate for the distortion of the incoming light waves. Recently a groundbreaking new optical device was developed with an ultra-fast vision system and three deformable mirrors at its heart for use with a high-resolution telescope.

The cameras in the vision system produce more than 1500 frames per second with 992 x 992 pixels and together with our CoaXPress frame grabbers researchers at the NSO have been able to guide a system of three deformable mirrors that change shape and position in order to correct the aberrations in the wave path. The mirrors are placed at three different altitudes, and when used in combination capture distortion-free images. Schmidt explains: “The [frame grabber] in this application is used in the wavefront sensor, which measures at fast speed the optical correction we need to apply with deformable mirrors. The speed of the image acquisition in this sensor is traditionally our bottleneck, and the number of pixels we can get per time is one (maybe even the) major limitation to us. For this reason, we always look for the fastest camera and interface on the market.”

This multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MCAO) device at the Goode Solar Telescope has tripled the size of the corrected field of view compared to previous single mirror systems. The system, funded by the National Science Foundation, is the result of decades of research and development supported by the NSO, New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Big Bear Solar Observatory, and the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics (Germany). Understanding solar activity has a vital role to play in being able to prepare for power surges and disruption to satellites, GPS and communication systems resulting from solar storms.

Active Silicon is proud to be part of this ground-breaking development and we look forward to our continued work with the NSO and NJIT in bringing even clearer imaging to solar research. Our latest interaction involves integrating our Firebird Quad CoaXPress frame grabber.

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of the MCAO device? Check out the following link with a short video: https://cuna.nso.edu/clear/index.php/2017/01/10/clear-demonstration/

Novus Light Technologies has also written about this project and the advanced adaptive optics involved – read the story here.