Semiconductor Guidestar Laser for Adaptive Optics Applications in Astronomy, Space Situational Awareness and Laser Communications

Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGS AO) is a technique used to restore space-like imaging conditions for ground-based telescopes by correcting atmospheric turbulence disturbances in real-time. The Adaptive Optics group at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) is involved in LGS AO research for astronomy (e.g. Laser Tomography AO for the Giant Magellan Telescope), satellite/space debris tracking/de-orbiting within the Space Environment Research Centre based at the Mount Stromlo Observatory, and AO-enhanced ground-to-ground, ground-to-space and space-to-ground secure laser communications.

Sodium LGS AO uses 10 to 50W-class lasers tuned to the sodium D2 line at 589nm to excite mesospheric sodium atoms located about 90 to 100km above the ground to create an artificial star. The Semiconductor Guidestar Laser project aims to develop, prototype, demonstrate, and commercialise such a laser source for use in astronomy, space situational awareness, and laser communication applications. The laser system is based on Optically-Pumped Semiconductor Laser (OPSL) technology being developed in collaboration with industry and defence partners in the United States.

The Semiconductor Laser prototype will be installed in 2019 on the EOS laser tracking station at Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra, Australia, and tested on-telescope and on-sky in the context of satellite imaging and space debris tracking/de-orbiting applications. Further testing will take place in the following 2-3 years at the 8-metre Subaru Telescope in Hawaii in the context of the Subaru ULTIMATE Laser Tomography AO and Ground-Layer AO program.

Depending on the duration and level of involvement with the Semiconductor Guidestar Laser project, undergraduate and postgraduate students may be involved in one or more aspects of the laser system research, development, testing and commercialisation phases. Students working on this project will become valued members of the Semiconductor Guidestar Laser project team and can be expected to see their contributions to the project implemented in Australia and/or Hawaii in a relatively short-time frame. Limited opportunities exist for Honours, Masters and PhD students involved with this project to work at the Subaru Observatory in Hawaii and to travel to other international destinations (e.g. United States, Japan and Europe) for project meetings and conferences.

Prior experience in laser physics and/or engineering and the desire and ability to work both independently and within a diverse team is required in order to apply for this project.