The Palomar Transient Factory is an automated wide-field survey facility dedicated to identifying a wide range of
transient phenomena. Typically, a new 7.5 square degree field will be acquired every 90 seconds with 66% observing
efficiency, in g' band when the sky is dark, or in R band when the moon is up. An imaging camera with a 12Kx8K
mosaic of MIT/LL CCDs, acquired from CFHT, is being repackaged to fit in the prime focus mounting hub of the
Palomar 48-inch Oschin Schmidt Telescope. We discuss how we have addressed the broad range of issues presented by
this application: faster CCD readout to improve observing efficiency, a new cooling system to fit within the constrained
space, a low impact shutter to maintain reliability at the fast observing cadence, a new filter exchange mechanism, and
the field flattener needed to correct for focal plane curvature. The most critical issue was the tight focal plane alignment
and co-planarity requirements created by the fast beam and coarse plate scale. We built an optical profilometer system to
measure CCDs heights and tilts with 1 μm RMS accuracy.
We describe the work that has gone into taking the sodium Laser Guide Star (LGS) program on the Palomar AO system
from a successful experiment to a facility instrument. In particular, we describe the operation of the system, the BTO
(beam transfer optics) system which controls the path of the laser in the dome, the aircraft safety systems and the optical
systems which allow us to take advantage of the unique properties of the macro/micro pulse laser. In addition we
present on sky performance results that demonstrate K-band Strehl ratios of up to 48%
Work is underway at the University of Chicago and Caltech Optical Observatories to implement a sodium laser guide star adaptive optics system for the 200 inch Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory. The Chicago sum frequency laser (CSFL) consists of two pulsed, diode-pumped, mode-locked Nd:YAG lasers working at 1.064 micron and 1.32 micron wavelengths. Light from the two laser beams is mixed in a non-linear crystal to produce radiation centered at 589 nm with a spectral width of 1.0 GHz (FWHM) to match that of the Sodium-D2 line. Currently the 1.064 micron and 1.32 micron lasers produce 14 watts and 8 watts of TEM-00 power respectively. The laser runs at 500 Hz rep. rate with 10% duty cycle. This pulse format is similar to that of the MIT-Lincoln labs and allows range gating of unwanted Rayleigh scatter down an angle of 60 degrees to zenith angle. The laser system will be kept in the Coude lab and will be projected up to a laser launch telescope (LLT) bore-sited to the Hale telescope. The beam-transfer optics, which conveys the laser beam from the Coude lab to the LLT, consists of motorized mirrors that are controlled in real time using quad-cell positioning systems. This needs to be done to prevent laser beam wander due to deflections of the telescope while tracking. There is a central computer that monitors the laser beam propagation up to the LLT, the interlocks and safety system status, laser status and actively controls the motorized mirrors. We plan to install a wide-field visible camera (for high flying aircraft) and a narrow field of view (FoV) IR camera (for low-flying aircraft) as part of our aircraft avoidance system.
Capturing the very faint optical communications signals expected from the Mars Laser Communication Demonstration (MLCD) experiment to fly aboard the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter (MTO) in 2009 requires a sensitive receiver placed at the focus of a large collecting aperture. For the purpose of demonstrating the potential of deep-space optical communication, it makes sense to employ a large astronomical telescope as a temporary receiver. Because of its large collecting aperture, its reputation as a well-run instrument, and its relative convenience, the 200-inch Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain is being considered as a demonstration optical 'antenna' for the experiment. However, use of the telescope in this manner presents unique challenges to be overcome, the greatest of which is pointing the telescope and maintaining the communication link to within a few degrees of the Sun. This paper presents our candidate approaches for adapting the Hale telescope to meet the demonstration requirements, modifications to the facilities and infrastructure, the derivation of requirements for baffles and filters to meet the near-Sun pointing objectives, and initial data on the potential of candidate modifications to meet the requirements.
This paper summarizes the optical, mechanical, electrical, and software design of LRIS-B, the blue channel of the Keck Low Resolution and Imaging Spectrograph. The LRIS-B project will shortly be completing the existing LRIS instrument through the addition of dichroic beamsplitters, grisms to disperse light on the blue channel, broad-band u, B, and V photometric filters, a blue and near-UV transmitting camera lens, and a large format blue-sensitive CCD detector. LRIS-B will also introduce piezoelectric xy-actuation of the CCD detector inside its Dewar, in order to compensate for flexure in the existing instrument; ultimately the red-side CCD detector will be similarly equipped, its PZT xy-stage being independently programmed. The optical design of the LRIS-B camera uses only fused silica and calcium fluoride elements, and includes a decentered meniscus element to compensate for coma introduced by the LRIS off-axis paraboloid collimator. The design of the blue channel grisms have been optimized for maximum blaze efficiency, the highest dispersion grism having a groove density of 1200 gr/mm. Optical elements not in use at any given time will be stowed in carousels externally mounted to the instrument sidewalls. The entire instrument is designed to permit remote operation.