The 2,446th Meeting of the Society

October 8, 2021 at 8:00 PM

Via Zoom Webinar

Taking the Twinkle Out of the Stars

How Adaptive Optics on Ground Based Telescopes Delivers the Sharpest Images of Our Universe

Olivier Guyon

Astronomer, Steward Observatory
University of Arizona

About the Lecture

The main characteristic of an astronomical telescope is its diameter, defining both sensitivity and angular resolution.  Ground-based telescopes have steadily grown in size, enabling observations of exoplanets, black holes, distant galaxies, and many other astronomical objects.

Until recently, however, their resolution was limited by the distortions that occur as light passes through the atmosphere.  The absence of these distortions in space is the primary reason the observations from the Hubble Telescope were so revolutionary, even though its aperture and light gathering ability were far smaller than many large telescopes on earth.  Now, thanks to real-time compensation of atmospheric turbulence by Adaptive Optics, large telescopes can operate at the diffraction limit, delivering images ~100x sharper than the uncorrected seeing limit.  This lecture will discuss how Adaptive Optics works and how its implementation in large observatories leverages recent advances in optics and high performance computing

The upcoming generation of 30-m class telescopes will bring orders-of-magnitude gains in sensitivity with adaptive optics.  The lecture will discuss some of the advances expected for these instruments.  One particularly exciting application that will be discussed is search for life by imaging and spectroscopy of nearby habitable exoplanets.

About the Speaker

Olivier Guyon is Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astronomer in the College of Optical Sciences and the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona.  He also is Affiliated Professor with the Astrobiology Center of the Japanese National Institutes of Natural Sciences and serves as Extreme Adaptive Optics Project Scientist for the Subaru Telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.  He is also a member of the Magellan extreme-AO development team.

Currently Olivier is developing high contrast imaging techniques for current and future ground and space-based telescopes, particularly innovative techniques for detecting and characterizing extrasolar planets.  His research includes work on coronagraphy, wavefront sensing techniques for Adaptive Optics, and astrometry.

Olivier developed the Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization (PIAA) Coronagraph, a highly efficient optical device to mask light from a star while preserving light from planets around it.  And he is currently leading the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics group at the Subaru Telescope to use these new techniques on the Subaru telescope for exoplanet detection and characterization.

Oliver is an author on over 169 refereed publications and more than 486 non-refereed publications.  Among other honors and awards he is a MacArthur fellowship awarded, a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and of the Guinier Young Researcher Award of the French Society of Physics.

Olivier earned his undergraduate degree at the École Normale Supérieure of Paris and his PhD in Astronomy at the University Paris.

Select Bibliography:

Extreme Adaptive Optics

Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics Vol. 56: Pgs. 315-355 (September 2018),

The SEEDS High Contrast Imaging Survey of Exoplanets around Young Stellar Objects, > astro-ph > arXiv:1604.04697

“Optical tricks to image and study habitable exoplanets” SETI institute lecture 2013 –

“The search for other Earth-like planets” TED-Ed –