Status of MagAO and review of astronomical science with visible light adaptive optics

Laird M. Close, Jared R. Males, Katie M. Morzinski, Simone Esposito, Armando Riccardi, Runa Briguglio, Kate B. Follette, Ya Lin Wu, Enrico Pinna, Alfio Puglisi, Marco Xompero, Fernando Quiros, Phil M. Hinz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

11 Citations (Scopus)


We review astronomical results in the visible (λ<1μm) with adaptive optics and note the status the MagAO system and the recent upgrade to visible camera's Simultaneous/Spectra Differential Imager (SDI+) mode. Since mid- 2013 there has been a rapid increase visible AO with over 50 refereed science papers published in just 2015-2016 timeframe. Currently there are productive small (D < 2 m) visible light AO telescopes like the UV-LGS Robo-AO system (Baranec, et al. 2016). The largest (D=8m) telescope to achieve regular visible AO science is SPHERE/ZIMPOL. ZIMPOL is a polarimeter fed by the ∼1.2 kHz SPHERE ExAO system (Fusco et al. 2016). ZIMPOL's ability to differentiate scattered polarized light from starlight allows the sensitive detection of circumstellar disks, stellar surfaces, and envelopes of evolved AGB stars. The main focus of this paper is another large (D=6.5m Magellan telescope) AO system (MagAO) which has been very productive in the visible as well (particularly at the H-alpha emission line). MagAO is an advanced Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) AO system at the Magellan in Chile. This ASM secondary has 585 actuators with < 1 msec response times (0.7 ms typically). MagAO utilizes a 1 kHz pyramid wavefront sensor (PWFS). The relatively small actuator pitch (∼22 cm/subap, 300 modes, upgraded to 30 pix dia. PWFS) allows moderate Strehls to be obtained in the visible (0.63-1.05 microns). Long exposures (60s) achieve <30mas resolutions and 30% Strehls at 0.62 microns (r') with the VisAO camera (0.5-1.0 μm) in 0.5" seeing with bright R ≤ 9 mag stars (∼10% Strehls can be obtained on fainter R∼12 mag guide stars). Differential Spectral Imaging (SDI) at H-alpha has been very important for accreting exoplanet detection. There is also a 1-5micron science camera (Clio; Morzinski et al. 2016). These capabilities have led to over 35 MagAO refereed science publications. Here we review the key steps to having good performance in the visible and review the exciting new AO visible science opportunities and science results in the fields of: Exoplanet detection; circumstellar and protoplanetary disks; young stars; AGB stars; emission line jets; and stellar surfaces. The recent rapid increase in the scientific publications and power of visible AO is due to the maturity of the next-generation of AO systems and our new ability probe circumstellar regions with very high (10-30 mas) spatial resolutions that would otherwise require much larger (<10m) diameter telescopes in the infrared.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdaptive Optics Systems VI
EditorsDirk Schmidt, Laura Schreiber, Laird M. Close
ISBN (Print)9781510619593
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventAdaptive Optics Systems VI 2018 - Austin, United States
Duration: 2018 Jun 102018 Jun 15

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceAdaptive Optics Systems VI 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Adaptive Optics
  • Adaptive Secondary Mirror
  • High-Contrast
  • Visible Adaptive Optics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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