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Identifying optical turbulence profiles for realistic tomographic error in adaptive optics

Farley, OJD; Osborn, J; Morris, T; Fusco, T; Neichel, B; Correia, C; Wilson, RW

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Ollie Farley
Post Doctoral Research Associate

T Fusco

B Neichel

C Correia


For extremely large telescopes, adaptive optics will be required to correct the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. The performance of tomographic adaptive optics is strongly dependent on the vertical distribution (profile) of this turbulence. An important way in which this manifests is the tomographic error, arising from imperfect measurement and reconstruction of the turbulent phase at altitude. Conventionally, a small number of reference profiles are used to obtain this error in simulation; however these profiles are not constructed to be representative in terms of tomographic error. It is therefore unknown whether these simulations are providing realistic performance estimates. Here, we employ analytical adaptive optics simulation that drastically reduces computation times to compute tomographic error for 10 691 measurements of the turbulence profile gathered by the Stereo-SCIDAR instrument at ESO Paranal. We assess for the first time the impact of the profile on tomographic error in a statistical manner. We find, in agreement with previous work, that the tomographic error is most directly linked with the distribution of turbulence into discrete, stratified layers. Reference profiles are found to provide mostly higher tomographic error than expected, which we attribute to the fact that these profiles are primarily composed of averages of many measurements resulting in unrealistic, continuous distributions of turbulence. We propose that a representative profile should be defined with respect to a particular system, and that as such simulations with a large statistical sample of profiles must be an important step in the design process.


Farley, O., Osborn, J., Morris, T., Fusco, T., Neichel, B., Correia, C., & Wilson, R. (2019). Identifying optical turbulence profiles for realistic tomographic error in adaptive optics. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 488(1), 213-221.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 6, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2019
Publication Date Sep 30, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 4, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 4, 2019
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 488
Issue 1
Pages 213-221


Published Journal Article (9.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This article has been accepted for publication in the Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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