During laser propagation we are required to prevent the accidental illumination of aircraft and satellites. The first requirement is fulfilled by constantly monitoring air traffic in the vicinity of the observatory and stopping propagation when an airplane gets close to the laser propagation direction, as detected by an automatic aircraft detection system.
Satellite avoidance is accomplished through coordination with the military-operated Laser Clearinghouse (LCH), which provides a daily list of allowable time windows for every potential target on the sky. Unlike aircraft avoidance, satellite avoidance is predictive and therefore can be integrated in the planning for telescope operations.
We describe and discuss the impact of both avoidance schemes on the operation efficiency of the observatory.
One year and an half after ARGOS first light, the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) laser guided ground-layer adaptive optics (GLAO) system has been operated on both sides of the LBT. The system fulfills the GLAO promise and typically delivers an improvement by a factor of 2 in FWHM over the 4'×4' field of view of both Luci instruments, the two near-infrared imagers and multi-object spectrographs.
In this paper, we report on the first on-sky results and analyze the performances based on the data collected so far. We also discuss adaptive optics procedures and the joint operations with Luci for science observations.
The goal for the adaptive optics systems at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (LBTO) is for them to operate fully automatically, without the need for an AO Scientist, and to be run by the observers and/or the telescope operator. This has been built into their design. Initially, the AO systems would close the loop using optimal parameters based on the observing conditions and guide star brightness, without adapting to changing conditions. We present the current status of AO operations as well as recent updates that improve the operational efficiency and minimize downtime. Onsky efficiency and performance will also be presented, along with calibrations required for AO closed loop operation.
Vertical profiles of the atmospheric optical turbulence strength and velocity is of critical importance for simulating, designing, and operating the next generation of instruments for the European Extremely Large Telescope. Many of these instruments are already well into the design phase meaning these profies are required immediately to ensure they are optimised for the unique conditions likely to be observed. Stereo-SCIDAR is a generalised SCIDAR instrument which is used to characterise the profile of the atmospheric optical turbulence strength and wind velocity using triangulation between two optical binary stars. Stereo-SCIDAR has demonstrated the capability to resolve turbulent layers with the required vertical resolution to support wide-field ELT instrument designs. These high resolution atmospheric parameters are critical for design studies and statistical evaluation of on-sky performance under real conditions. Here we report on the new Stereo-SCIDAR instrument installed on one of the Auxillary Telescope ports of the Very Large Telescope array at Cerro Paranal. Paranal is located approximately 20 km from Cerro Armazones, the site of the E-ELT. Although the surface layer of the turbulence will be different for the two sites due to local geography, the high-altitude resolution profiles of the free atmosphere from this instrument will be the most accurate available for the E-ELT site. In addition, these unbiased and independent profiles are also used to further characterise the site of the VLT. This enables instrument performance calibration, optimisation and data analysis of, for example, the ESO Adaptive Optics facility and the Next Generation Transit Survey. It will also be used to validate atmospheric models for turbulence forecasting. We show early results from the commissioning and address future implications of the results.
A key aspect of LGS operations is the implementation of measures to prevent the illumination of airplanes flying overhead. The most basic one is the use of “aircraft spotters” in permanent communication with the laser operator. Although this is the default method accepted by the FAA to authorize laser propagation, it relies on the inherent subjectivity of human perception, and requires keeping a small army of spotters to cover all the nights scheduled for propagation. Following the successful experience of other observatories (Keck and APO), we have installed an automatic aircraft detection system developed at UCSD known as TBAD (Transponder-Based Aircraft Detection). The system has been in continuous operation since April 2015, collecting detection data every night the telescope is open. We present a description of our system implementation and operational procedures. We also describe and discuss the analysis of the TBAD detection data, that shows how busy our airspace is, and the expected impact on the operation efficiency of the observatory.
ARGOS is the GLAO (Ground-Layer Adaptive Optics) Rayleigh-based LGS (Laser Guide Star) facility for the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (LBTO). It is dedicated for observations with LUCI1 and LUCI2, LBTO's pair of NIR imagers and multi-object spectrographs. The system projects three laser beams from the back of each of the two secondary mirror units, which create two constellations circumscribed on circles of 2 arcmin radius with 120 degree spacing. Each of the six Nd:YAG lasers provides a beam of green (532nm) pulses at a rate of 10kHz with a power of 14W to 18W. We achieved first on-sky propagation on the night of November 5, 2013, and commissioning of the full system will take place during 2014. We present the initial results of laser operations at the observatory, including safety procedures and the required coordination with external agencies (FAA, Space Command, and Military Airspace Manager). We also describe our operational procedures and report on our experiences with aircraft spotters. Future plans for safer and more efficient aircraft monitoring and detection are discussed.
The Large Binocular Telescope has two adaptive secondary mirrors which are used for regular observing in both seeinglimited mode and for diffraction-limited mode unlike the adaptive secondaries at the MMT and Magellan telescopes which are swapped in for diffraction-limited observing only. The LBTO secondary mirrors have been in routine operation for ~ 4 years for the first and for ~ 2 years for the second. We review the operational history of these units and discuss the various failure modes unique to adaptive secondaries as compared with rigid secondaries for seeing-limited observing and more conventional adaptive optics systems for diffraction-limited observing.
ARGOS is the Laser Guide Star and Wavefront sensing facility for the Large Binocular Telescope. With first laser light on sky in 2013, the system is currently undergoing commissioning at the telescope. We present the overall status and design, as well as first results on sky. Aiming for a wide field ground layer correction, ARGOS is designed as a multi- Rayleigh beacon adaptive optics system. A total of six powerful pulsed lasers are creating the laser guide stars in constellations above each of the LBTs primary mirrors. With a range gated detection in the wavefront sensors, and the adaptive correction by the deformable secondary’s, we expect ARGOS to enhance the image quality over a large range of seeing conditions. With the two wide field imaging and spectroscopic instruments LUCI1 and LUCI2 as receivers, a wide range of scientific programs will benefit from ARGOS. With an increased resolution, higher encircled energy, both imaging and MOS spectroscopy will be boosted in signal to noise by a large amount. Apart from the wide field correction ARGOS delivers in its ground layer mode, we already foresee the implementation of a hybrid Sodium with Rayleigh beacon combination for a diffraction limited AO performance.