recommendations. It should be noted that this effort was conducted on a short timescale in order to accommodate AFOSR’s decision-making process. Had there been more time, a more in-depth analysis (including comparisons with other NSF research programs) could have been conducted. Such a review could still be beneficial in helping make this program more productive.

The AMOS Telescope and AEOS

The Air Force’s AMOS telescope is a 3.67-meter optical/near-infrared telescope sited on the 10,023-foot summit of Haleakala, on the island of Maui. The telescope is capable of rapid slewing and tracking, and it has a small number of site instruments built for its Air Force mission, including an optical CCD camera and a long-wavelength infrared camera. The centerpiece of the facility is AEOS, a state-of-the-art 941-actuator adaptive optics (AO) system that minimizes the effects of atmospheric turbulence on data gathered by the telescope.

Light gathered by the telescope is sent (via a series of mirrors) down two stories to a central room housing the AO bench. From this room, the light can be diverted into any one of eight coudé rooms, where instruments can be installed without affecting activities in the rest of the facility. Room Six is set aside for astronomical researchers supported by the joint AFOSR/NSF program. Astronomers can work in Room Six without needing or having access to sensitive or classified information, but foreign nationals must be accompanied at all times when they are in the AMOS facility.

The AEOS AO system can obtain good image correction at visible wavelengths of light, a capability that is not duplicated on any of today’s large (>3-m-diameter) astronomical telescopes. Because of the unique capabilities of AEOS for high-resolution astronomical observations using visible wavelengths (in contrast to infrared AO systems available elsewhere), access to the facility is potentially of considerable interest to the astronomy community. In recognition of this potential, the AFOSR and NSF jointly fund a competitive research program aimed at construction of astronomical instrumentation for, and scientific observations with, the AMOS 3.67-meter telescope.

The committee was asked to assess whether the research conducted to date has made optimum use of the unique aspects of the AMOS facility. In the committee’s view, the AMOS facility provides a number of unique capabilities, resulting not only from the design of its AO system, but also from the nature of the telescope itself, as well as the layout of the observatory. These include:

  1. A high-actuator-count deformable mirror, suitable for visible AO (700-1000 nm),

  2. A high-Strehl-ratio3 near-infrared capability,

  3. A rapid slewing mount with no dome interference,

  4. Flexible, human scheduling/operation for rapid response to unique events,

3  

Strehl ratio—a measure of image quality. A Strehl ratio of unity describes an image taken with no optical aberrations or atmospheric distortions. For comparison, the Hubble Space Telescope often achieves Strehl ratios above 90 percent because of its position above the atmosphere.



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