Monitoring the mesospheric sodium layer for Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics

Adaptive Optics (AO) systems measure and correct for the atmospheric turbulence above the Earth’s surface. The turbulence perturbs the light coming from an object in space or the laser light propagated from the ground, deteriorating the performance of astronomical observations and laser applications (satellite communications, space situational awareness, etc).

Laser Guide Stars (LGS) are artificial references for the AO systems. LGSs are used to cope with the lack of natural stars up on the area of interest (where the observing object is). They are generated by propagating a laser beam to the upper layers of the atmosphere (Rayleigh LGS) or to the Sodium layer at 90km above the Earth’s surface (Sodium LGS).

The characteristics of the Laser Guide Star, and thus the performance of the Adaptive Optics system, crucially depend on the mesospheric sodium layer at 90km. Therefore, characterizing and monitoring the behaviour of the sodium layer becomes of great importance when trying to achieve the best possible atmospheric correction. Students will participate in the development of a new technique for the characterization of the sodium layer at Mount Stromlo.

REQUIRED SKILLS:

Undergraduate and postgraduate students are encouraged to contact the project team and inquire about this project. Prior experience in at least two of the following disciplines is required: electronics and photonics (signal processing), mechatronics, systems engineering, physics, optics/optical engineering, system engineering, space engineering, instrumentation, computer science.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Celine d'Orgeville