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.
Adaptive Optics (AO) systems aim at detecting and correcting for optical distortions induced by atmospheric turbulences. The Gemini Multi Conjugated AO System GeMS is operational and regularly used for science observations since 2013 delivering close to diffraction limit resolution over a large field of view. GeMS entered this year into a new era. The laser system has been upgraded from the old 50W Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies (LMCT) pulsed laser to the Toptica 20/2W CW SodiumStar laser. The laser has been successfully commissioned and is now used regularly in operation. In this paper we first review the performance obtained with the instrument. I will go then into the details of the commissioning of the Toptica laser and show the improvements obtained in term of acquisition, stability, reliability and performance.
The Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) at the Gemini South telescope in Cerro Pachon is the first sodium Laser Guide Star (LGS) adaptive optics (AO) system with multiple guide stars. It uses five LGSs and two deformable mirrors (DMs) to measure and compensate for distortions induced by atmospheric turbulence. After its 2012 commissioning phase, it is now transitioning into regular operations. Although GeMS has unique scientific capabilities, it remains a challenging instrument to maintain, operate and upgrade. In this paper, we summarize the latest news and results. First, we describe the engineering work done this past year, mostly during our last instrument shutdown in 2013 austral winter, covering many subsystems: an erroneous reconjugation of the Laser guide star wavefront sensor, the correction of focus field distortion for the natural guide star wavefront sensor and engineering changes dealing with our laser and its beam transfer optics. We also describe our revamped software, developed to integrate the instrument into the Gemini operational model, and the new optimization procedures aiming to reduce GeMS time overheads. Significant software improvements were achieved on the acquisition of natural guide stars by our natural guide star wavefront sensor, on the automation of tip-tilt and higher-order loop optimization, and on the tomographic non-common path aberration compensation. We then go through the current operational scheme and present the plan for the next years. We offered 38 nights in our last semester. We review the current system efficiency in term of raw performance, completed programs and time overheads. We also present our current efforts to merge GeMS into the Gemini base facility project, where night operations are all reliably driven from our La Serena headquarter, without the need for any spotter. Finally we present the plan for the future upgrades, mostly dedicated toward improving the performance and reliability of the system. Our first upgrade called NGS2, a project lead by the Australian National University, based a focal plane camera will replace the current low throughput natural guide wavefront sensor. On a longer term, we are also planning the (re-)integration of our third deformable mirror, lost during the early phase of commissioning. Early plans to improve the reliability of our laser will be presented.
The Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS) began its on-sky commissioning in January 2011.
The system provides high order wide field corrections using a constellation of five Laser Guide Stars. In December 2011, commissioning culminated in images with a FWHM of 80±2mas at 1.65 microns (H band) over an 87 x 87 arcsecond field of view. The first images have already demonstrated the scientific potential of GeMS, and after more than a year of commissioning GeMS is finally close to completion and ready for science. This paper presents a general status of the GeMS project and summarizes the achievements made during more than a year of commissioning. The characterization of GeMS performance is presented in a companion paper: “GeMS on-sky results”, Rigaut et al. Here we report on the sub-systems' performance, discuss current limitations and present proposed upgrades. The integration of GeMS into the observatory operational scheme is detailed. Finally, we present the plans for next year's operations with GeMS.
The Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS} began its on-sky commissioning in January 20ll. The system provides high order wide-field corrections using a constellation of five Laser Guide Stars. In December 20ll, commissioning culminated in images with a FWHM of 80±2mas at 1.65 microns (H band} over an 87 x 87 arcsccond field of view. The first images have already demonstrated the scientific potential of GeMS, and after more than a year of commissioning GeMS is finally close to completion and ready for science. This paper presents a general status of the GeMS project and summarizes the achievements made during more than a year of commissioning. The characterization of GeMS performance is presented in a companion paper: "GeMS on-sky results" , R.igaut ct al. Here we report on the sub-systems' performance, discuss current limitations and present proposed upgrades. The integration of GeMS into the observatory operational scheme is detailed. Finally, we present the plans for next year's operations with GeMS.
With two to three deformable mirrors, three Natural Guide Stars (NGS) and five sodium Laser Guide Stars (LGS), the
Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics System (Gemini MCAO a.k.a. GeMS) will be the first facility-class MCAO
capability to be offered for regular science observations starting in 2013A. The engineering and science commissioning
phase of the project was kicked off in January 2011 when the Gemini South Laser Guide Star Facility (GS LGSF)
propagated its 50W laser above the summit of Cerro Pachón, Chile. GeMS commissioning has proceeded throughout
2011 and the first half of 2012 at a pace of one 6- to 10-night run per month with a 5-month pause during the 2011
This paper focuses on the LGSF-side of the project and provides an overview of the LGSF system and subsystems, their
top-level specifications, design, integration with the telescope, and performance throughout commissioning and beyond.
Subsystems of the GS LGSF include: (i) a diode-pumped solid-state 1.06+1.32 micron sum-frequency laser capable of
producing over 50W of output power at the sodium wavelength (589nm); (ii) Beam Transfer Optics (BTO) that transport
the 50W beam up the telescope, split the beam five-ways and configure the five 10W beams for projection by the Laser
Launch Telescope (LLT) located behind the Gemini South 8m telescope secondary mirror; and (iii) a variety of safety
systems to ensure safe laser operations for observatory personnel and equipment, neighbor observatories, as well as
passing aircrafts and satellites.
GeMS, the Gemini Laser Guide Star Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics facility system, has seen first light in December 2011, and has already produced images with H band Strehl ratio in excess of 35% over fields of view of 85x85 arcsec, fulfilling the MCAO promise. In this paper, we report on these early results, analyze trends in performance, and concentrate on key or novel aspects of the system, like centroid gain estimation, on-sky non common path aberration estimation. We also present the first astrometric analysis, showing very encouraging results.