Adaptive Optics System for the Mt. Wilson Observatory's 2.5-m Telescope with both Natural and Laser Guide Star Capabilities

P. I., Laird Thompson, Astronomy Dept., Univ. of Illinois

Co-P.I., Prof. Scott Teare, Dept. Electrical Engineering, New Mexico Tech

The acronym UnISIS is derived from
University of Illinois Seeing Improvement System.

Funded by the National Science Foundation: Astronomy Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation

UnISIS Subsystems

For general orientation purposes, please refer to the title-bar image above showing the 2.5-m Telescope in its dome. Look for the labels: Main Optics Bench, Beam Combining Room, Excimer Laser. Then click on the thumbnail images below to bring up a description of these UnISIS subsystems. Once you click, you will also find links to close-up images of the individual components within UnISIS: the deformable mirror, the tip-tilt mirror, beam transfer optics, etc.

Main Optics Bench Beam Combining Room Excimer Laser Control Room
UnISIS Main Optics Bench Coude Beam Combining Room Excimer Laser Room UnISIS Control Room and Reconstructor Computer

How Does the Performance of UnISIS Compare with that of other AO Systems in the U.S.?

The first 6 lines compare Natural Guide Star (NGS) capabilities only. The last 2 lines compare Laser Guide Star (LGS) systems.

Telescope AO System Operating Frequency Telescope Diameter Total No. Actuators Actuator Spacing in Pupil
UnISIS NGS / Mt. Wilson Maximum=1.3KHz Typical=600Hz 2.5-m 177 20 cm
Palomar AO Maximum=2 KHz Typical=500-800Hz 5-m 241 32 cm
Keck AO Maximum=500Hz 10-m 241 64 cm
Lick Observatroy Maximum=500Hz 3-m 61 (36 subapertures) 44 cm
MMT Maximum=555Hz 6.5-m 336 (12x12 subapertures) 54 cm
AEOS Telescope Maximum=200Hz Typical=50Hz 3.67-m 944 11 cm **Effective 17 cm
UnISIS LGS / Mt. Wilson Maximum=333Hz Typical=167Hz 2.5-m 177 20 cm
Lick LGS / Mt. Hamilton 100-200Hz-at-zenith 55Hz-off-zenith 3-m 61 (36 subapertures) 44 cm
**Oppenheimer et al. 2004, Proc. SPIE, v. 5490, p. 433.

UnISIS Papers:

Click here for a list of published papers.

UnISIS Performance:

Click here for performance characteristics of the AO system as well as a few images showing AO-on and AO-off.

UnISIS Credits

Click here for an early group picture of those who helped to build UnISIS.

Active Researchers:

Prof. Laird Thompson, Principal Investigator & Prof. of Astronomy, University of Illinois
Prof. Scott Teare, Co-Principal Investigator & Prof. of Electrical Engineering, New Mexico Tech

Associated Researchers:

Prof. Xiong Yao-Heng, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Illinois
Permanent Position: Head of Laser Ranging, Yunnan Observatory, P.R.China

NIRIM - Near Infrared Camera:
Dr. Margaret Meixner - Formerly UIUC Astronomy, now STScI

EEV Wavefront Sensor Electronics & 2048x2048 Loral Sensor and Electronics:
Dr. Robert Leach - SDSU, Astronomy and Astronomical Research Cameras, Inc.

MIT/LL Wavefront Sensor Electronics (this camera is now retired):
Prof. Ray DuVarney - Emory University, Physics
Dr. Jim Beletic - Georgia Institute of Technology (now at Keck)

Optical Design Consultant:
Dr. E. Harvey Richardson - Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Retired

Software Consultant:
Mr. Thomas Schneider - RipTideRealTime Inc., Topanga Canyon, CA.

Electrical Consultant:
Mr. Joseph Russell - De La Guerra Power, Inc.

Past Researchers:

Prof. Abhiit Chakraborty (now at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India)
Dr. Peter McCullough, Hubble Fellow & Assistant Professor - UIUC Astronomy (now STScI)
Mr. Richard Castle, Researcher - UIUC Astronomy (since retired)
Mr. Samuel Crawford, Graduate Student - UIUC Electrical & Computer Engineering (now at JPL)
Mr. Christopher Neyman, Graduate Student - UIUC Astronomy (now at KECK)
Ms. Jie Zou, Graduate Student - UIUC Astronomy (now Physics Department, Eastern Illinois University
Mr. Daniel Bullok, Graduate Student - UIUC Computer Science
Mr. Daniel Goscha, Undergraduate Student - UIUC Astronomy
Mr. Jeremy Hicks, Undergraduate Student - UIUC Engineering


The construction as well as science commissioning of UnISIS was administered by Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation (ATI) Section in the Astronomy Program of the National Science Foundation under award numbers AST-9220504 and AST-0096741. ATI Program Directors who have been involved in overseeing the UnISIS development have included Dr. G. Wayne van Citters, Dr. Benjamin Snavely, Dr. James Breckinridge, and Dr. Andrew Clegg. Additional funding was provided by the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the University of Illinois Astronomy Department. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author of this web page and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last Updated: September 2, 2013