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11 July 2018 Dueling lasers! A comparative analysis of two different sodium laser technologies on sky
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Sodium guide star technologies for Adaptive Optics (AO) have been around for over 20 years. During this time, the technologies for the lasers used to excite the mesospheric sodium have been in constant development, with the goals being not only to excite as much sodium as possible, but to do so efficiently, while producing a round guide star, and while offering a reliable facility. The first lasers in use were dye lasers with a liquid gain medium, while these lasers were able to produce sodium guide stars, the liquid dye used was toxic and flammable. The second generation of guide star lasers used sum-frequency-mixed solid-state lasers. These lasers provided excellent return but were notoriously difficult to calibrate and maintain, requiring a full-time laser engineer on staff. The current third generation of sodium guide star lasers use Raman fiber amplification to generate a laser that is very efficient at exciting sodium with a good spot profile and offer a high degree of reliability. The Gemini South observatory for the last few years has been in the process of obtaining one of these third-generation lasers, a Toptica Sodium Star 20/2 while maintaining its second-generation Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies (LMCT) 50W CW Mode-locked laser. In October of 2017 successful on-sky commissioning of the Toptica laser was executed while the LMCT laser was still active and in operations. During the course of the commissioning run both lasers were used on sky in close in time in possible. We present a comparative study of the performance of each laser.
© (2018) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.

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