Adaptive Optics


Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre

ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Mount Stromlo Obervatory
Weston ACT 2611

T +61 2 6125 0230



The AITC has built a core of expertise in the field of adaptive optics (AO), a technology that will be essential to the success of high-resolution observations with the next generation of large ground-based telescopes. AO systems correct for the effects of turbulence in the air of the atmosphere, which causes distortion to the images produced by telescopes on the Earth. RSAA AO scientists are working with industry partners to develop the technologies and techniques required to extend AO capabilities to greater efficacy and for use with extremely-large telescopes (ELTs) such as the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The AITC is leading Australia's involvement as a member of the international consortium that will design, build, and use the Giant Magellan Telescope. This facility will have an effective mirror aperture of 24.5m and is scheduled for completion in around 2020.  The AITC is building one of the first instruments that will be used with the telescope, the GMT Integral-Field Spectrograph (GMTIFS) and developing adaptive-optics solutions for the project. Our participation ensures that Australian astronomers and students will continue to have access to cutting-edge resources and provides important opportunities for work on advanced instrumentation applications and astronomical research.

Find out more about GMT and adaptive optics


Adaptive Optics for space debris tracking

Adaptive Optics is also used for space debris tracking. The Adaptive Optics Demonstrator project is a partnership with Electro Optic Systems (EOS). It aims to push laser tracking of space debris to a new level by using an ultra-fast Adaptive Optics system and a Laser Guide Star.  This cutting-edge adaptive optics system will counteract the unintended effects of atmosphere turbulence in the fast-moving line of sight of a space object orbiting at 28 000 km/h over our heads.

The laser tracking system will be accommodated in the EOS Space Research Centre facility at Mount Stromlo Observatory, using its 1.8 metre telescope. Financed through additional funding contributions, the system will be upgraded with an additional high-power laser in order to conduct experimental modification of the debris’ orbit by photon pressure.

For more information:


Adaptive optics for free-space optical communications

The AITC have been developing adaptive optics (AO) for free-space optical communications. A compact demonstrator system has been designed, built and tested over short horizontal propagation distances. The next step is to fully characterise the AO system and further develop techniques and methods of applying AO to laser communications.

The AO for Free-Space Optical Communications system (AOFSOC) may be used to perform experiments and measurements of the AO system performance, to assist in the further development and characterisation of AO specifically designed for communications.

The AOFSOC system uses a high-speed camera and deformable mirror to measure and correct for atmospheric turbulence. A laser communication system is transmitted to a retro-reflector, and the reflection received by the instrument.

Updated:  18 February 2018/Responsible Officer:  RSAA Director/Page Contact:  Webmaster