Adaptive Optics

Describe the operation and limitations of adaptive optics system as used in astronomy. In your response be sure to use the terms, guide star, artificial guide star, field of view, feedback, and atmospheric distortion.

The adaptive optics (AO) is a technology used in enhancing the performance of the optical systems by minimizing the impacts of the wave front distortions. To do this, the AO deforms a mirror so as to obtain a feedback and compensate for the atmospheric distortion.  The technology corrects the blurring caused by the earth’s atmospheric turbulence.  A bright guide star is placed in a certain field of view close to the object under study which is used to assess the blurring caused by the local atmosphere for the deformable mirror to correct (Tyler, 2016). An artificial guide star like a shining laser beam can be used as a source of light in the atmosphere since relevant stars may not be available. The technology is not effective where thick tissue specimens are to be imaged since the scattering may overcome the aberrations.

Describe the source of distortion and the means of correction in terms of the wave model of light and wave optics. Be sure to use the terms ray, wave, reflection, refraction and focal point in your response.

When light strikes a surface, it transmits rays and as they pass through a boundary of two media the light waves encounter an obstacle whereby they scatter into various directions causing refraction.  The standing waves occur due to the opposite movement of the waves hence distorting the transmission lines hence failing to achieve a perfect reflection of the light which should be a result of deflection from the surface (Szeliski, 2011). To correct the distortion, one can forecast the angles of the reflected steering lights accurately and calculate the adjustment constants for different tilt viewpoint combinations (Tyler, 2016).

Discuss an alternative application of this technology to other areas of scientific research and industry. See if you can come up with your own example of a process limited by optical distortion.

This technology can be used to produce images of single cones in the human eye in flood illumination retinal imaging. It is also used in observing three-dimensional neural structures that are deep within a brain tissue to increase the range of depth using deformable mirrors (Szeliski, 2011). It can also be used in a robotic vision to offer long-distance or real time imaging although optical distortion is a limiting factor.


Tyler, Lefteris. (2016). Adaptive Optics Progress. Scitus Academics Llc. Press.

Szeliski, R. (2011). Computer vision: Algorithms and applications. London: Springer. Press.

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