SETI National Science Foundation approves funding for a Center for Adaptive Optics

Larry Klaes (
Sat, 31 Jul 1999 13:43:05 -0400

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>Subject: National Science Foundation approves funding for a Center for
> Adaptive
>Subject: National Science Foundation approves funding for a Center for
>Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 22:26:44 -0500
>From: Andrew Yee <>
>Organization: via Internet Direct
>University of California-Santa Cruz
>Contact: Tim Stephens, (831) 459-2495,
>National Science Foundation approves funding for a Center for Adaptive
>Optics headquartered at UC Santa Cruz
>UC Santa Cruz will lead a multi-institutional partnership to advance the
>field of adaptive optics, which promises to revolutionize astronomy and
>vision science.
>SANTA CRUZ, CA -- The National Science Foundation's governing body,
>the National Science Board, today approved a proposal to establish a
>Center for Adaptive Optics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
>The multi-institutional center will coordinate the efforts of researchers
>across the country involved in the rapidly developing field of adaptive
>optics, which has major applications in astronomy and vision science.
>The Center for Adaptive Optics, expected to begin operation in November,
>is one of five Science and Technology Centers approved for the National
>Science Foundation (NSF) this year. NSF program guidelines allow for
>financial commitments of up to $20 million over five years for each
>center, but final awards under these cooperative agreements are
>subject to negotiations between NSF and the lead institutions.
>UCSC's 27 partner institutions in the Center for Adaptive Optics will
>include UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Irvine, the University of
>Chicago, the California Institute of Technology, the University of
>Rochester, the University of Houston, Indiana University, Lawrence
>Livermore National Laboratory, and 17 other national laboratory,
>industry, and international partners (a complete list of partners is
>attached to this release).
>Adaptive optics is a method to actively compensate for changing
>distortions that cause blurring of images. It is used in astronomy to
>correct for the blurring effect of turbulence in the earth's atmosphere
>and in vision science to compensate for aberrations in the eye that
>affect vision and impede efforts to study the living retina.
>An adaptive optics (AO) system requires several highly advanced
>technologies, including precision optics, sensors, and deformable
>mirrors, plus high-speed computers to integrate and control the whole
>system. Basically, the AO system uses a point source of light as a
>reference beacon to measure precisely the distortion created by the
>atmosphere (or by internal imperfections and fluids in the eye); then
>an "adaptive optical element," usually a deformable mirror, is used to
>cancel the effect by applying an opposite distortion. For astronomy, the
>system must measure atmospheric distortion and apply a correction
>hundreds of times per second.
>The director of the Center for Adaptive Optics will be Jerry Nelson,
>professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC, who designed the
>twin Keck Telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and is
>a leading expert on the technology of large telescopes, optics, and
>UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood said the center is a natural fit for
>the UCSC campus, which is also headquarters for UC Observatories/
>Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick). The NSF funding will enable UCSC to
>construct a new building on campus to house the Center for Adaptive
>Optics. Construction of the building, to be located in the campus's
>"Science Hill" area, is expected to be completed by fall 2000.
>"Our astronomers are leaders in the development and use of new
>technologies, and adaptive optics is an exciting interdisciplinary field
>that will benefit tremendously from the collaborations and synergism
>fostered by an NSF Science and Technology Center," Greenwood said.
>First-generation adaptive optics systems have been installed on the
>3-meter Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory and the 10-meter Keck
>II Telescope in Hawaii. Although these systems have yielded impressive
>results, AO is not yet in routine use, Nelson said.
>"Adaptive optics is enormously complex, and to bring this technology
>to maturity and make AO systems practical tools for scientists will
>require a coherent national program that brings together scientists
>and engineers with diverse areas of expertise," Nelson said.
>"As far as we've come in adaptive optics, we've only just begun to
>realize its potential," said Joseph Miller, director of UCO/Lick.
>For astronomers, adaptive optics can give ground-based telescopes
>the same clarity of vision that space telescopes achieve by orbiting
>above earth's turbulent atmosphere.
>"This is the gateway to an unimaginable future," said UCSC astronomer
>Sandra Faber. "Adaptive optics makes the Keck Telescope 20 times
>sharper, so it's like bringing the universe 20 times closer," she said.
>With adaptive optics, the Keck Telescopes, currently the largest optical
>telescopes in the world, can achieve four times the resolution of the
>Hubble Space Telescope in the near-infrared wavelengths, noted Claire
>Max, who heads the group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
>(LLNL) that helped developed the AO systems for the Keck and Lick
>Max said she expects most of the large ground-based telescopes will
>have AO systems within the next few years. Very few astronomers,
>however, have any experience using adaptive optics, she said. "One goal
>of the center is to bring adaptive optics to the broader astronomical
>community through conferences and workshops," said Max, who is
>director of university relations for LLNL.
>In vision science, adaptive optics has made it possible to obtain
>images of the living human retina with unprecedented resolution,
>enabling researchers to see the individual receptors involved in vision,
>said David Williams, director of the Center for Visual Science at the
>University of Rochester. Williams and his coworkers recently used AO
>to obtain images showing how the three types of cones involved in color
>vision are arranged in the human retina.
>"We've also just begun to explore the potential of adaptive optics for
>looking at retinal diseases," Williams said. "In addition, by measuring
>aberrations in the eye better than before, we may be able to develop
>better contact lenses or better laser surgery procedures. So this
>technology has a lot of potential for improving vision."
>While astronomy and vision science use similar AO technology, they
>have different needs for future technology development, Nelson
>said. "In astronomy, our needs are for increasingly complex and
>sophisticated systems, whereas in vision science the emphasis is
>likely to be on miniaturization and creating more human-friendly
>systems for use in health care," he said.
>The Center for Adaptive Optics will provide the sustained effort
>needed to bring adaptive optics from promise to widespread use.
>The center will conduct research, educate students, develop new
>instruments, and disseminate knowledge about adaptive optics to
>the broader scientific community. The center will concentrate on
>astronomical and vision science applications and will reach out to
>scientists in other fields to share technologies.
>The center will also develop a range of science education and outreach
>programs, which will be coordinated with UCSC's existing programs
>through the campus's Educational Partnership Center. Partnerships
>are planned with local public schools and with institutes such as
>the Chabot Observatory and Science Center in Oakland, which operates
>a planetarium, after-school science programs for youth, training for
>teachers, and summer science camps. In the Chicago area, the center
>will work with similar programs through the Adler Planetarium and
>the Yerkes Observatory.
>"Everyone involved in the center will devote some of their time to
>education and outreach programs," Nelson said.
>Industry partnerships will be important for developing practical new
>devices and implementing adaptive optics applications in health care
>and other fields. Bausch and Lomb, ERIM International, and Lucent
>Technologies will be among the center's industrial partners.
>Editor's note: Jerry Nelson will be available for interviews on Friday,
>July 30; he can be reached at (831) 459-5132 or >July 30; he can be reached at (831) 459-5132 or
>Reporters can also contact Joseph Miller at (831) 459-2991 or
>; Claire Max at (619) 459-9701 or;
>and David Williams at (716) 275-8672 or >and David Williams at (716) 275-8672 or
>Images of adaptive optics applications in astronomy and vision science
>can be downloaded from the Web at
>If you are unable to download the images, please contact Tim Stephens
>in the UCSC Public Information Office at (831) 459-2495 or
>* * *
>Center for Adaptive Optics at UC Santa Cruz List of Participating
>Academic Partner Institutions:
>California Institute of Technology
>Carthage College
>Indiana University, School of Optometry
>University of California, Berkeley
>University of California, Irvine
>University of California, Los Angeles
>University of California, San Diego
>University of Chicago
>University of Houston, College of Optometry
>University of Rochester Center for Visual Science Institute of Optics
>National Laboratories and Observatories:
>Air Force Research Laboratory
>Gemini Observatory
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/Caltech)
>W. M. Keck Observatory
>Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
>National Optical Astronomy Observatory
>National Solar Observatory
>Space Telescope Science Institute
>Industry Partners:
>Bausch and Lomb
>ERIM International
>Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Space Corporation
>Lucent Technologies
>MEMS Optical
>Rockwell Science Center
>International Collaborators:
>Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
>European Union
>TMR Network and Centre de Recherche Astronomique de Lyon (France)
>National Research Council of Canada
>Andrew Yee

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