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Center for Adaptive Optics

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Center for Adaptive Optics  (University of California-Santa Cruz)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

Researchers at the Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO) have developed technologies that enable telescopes to obtain clear, sharp images of space. Telescopes at the W.M. Keck, Gemini and other observatories are now equipped with sophisticated adaptive optics technology so they can overcome the turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere that causes images of stars and planets to appear fuzzy. The Keck Observatory was used by University of California, Los Angeles astronomer Andrea Ghez in her research to estimate the mass of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Adaptive optics have another application that, at first glance, appears very different from astronomy. Researchers at CfAO are studying the capabilities for adaptive optics to correct people’s vision and enhance imaging of the retina in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. The center’s industrial partners, such as Bausch and Lomb, would facilitate the transfer of research results into marketable products, such as drugs for glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Education & Outreach

The Center for Adaptive Optics draws on the resources of member institutions in seven states and Canada to fund basic research and education activities and to encourage technology transfer and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary programs.

CfAO’s education goals are to increase the versatility of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through exposure and training in the diverse fields within the CfAO research and education programs; to increase the number of underrepresented students from partner high schools who are prepared and motivated to pursue a science degree in college; to establish a center-based model for the retention and advancement of under-represented college students, or potential college students, into the scientific or technical workforce, or next educational level; and to increase the interest in and knowledge of CfAO science and technology in the broader community.

To accomplish these goals, CfAO has offered a four-week course designed and taught by CfAO scientists for high school students as well as internships, short courses and Saturday Open Labs for undergraduates and a Professional Development Program for graduate students.

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  • Jupiter's moon Io
Images of Io, one of Jupiter's moons, captured by Keck telescope's adaptive optics (left) show comparable detail to visible light picture taken with NASA's Galileo orbiter (right).
Center for Adaptive Optics, UCSC