First on-sky demonstration of a scintillation correction technique using tomographic wavefront sensing

Kathryn E Hartley*, Oliver J D Farley, Matthew J Townson, James Osborn, R W Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Scintillation noise significantly limits high precision ground-based photometry of bright stars. In this paper, we present the first ever on-sky demonstration of scintillation correction. The technique uses tomographic wavefront sensing to estimate the spatial-temporal intensity fluctuations induced by high altitude optical turbulence. With an estimate of the altitudes and relative strengths of the turbulent layers above the telescope, the wavefront sensor data from multiple guide stars can be combined to estimate the phase aberrations of the wavefront at each altitude through the use of a tomographic algorithm. This 3D model of the phase aberrations can then be used to estimate the intensity fluctuations across the telescope pupil via Fresnel propagation. The measured photometric data for a given target within the field of view can then be corrected for the effects of scintillation using this estimate in post-processing. A simple proof-of-concept experiment using a wavefront sensor and a stereo-SCIDAR turbulence profiler attached to the 2.5 m Isaac Newton Telescope was performed for a range of exposure times using the Orion Trapezium cluster as the reference stars. The results from this on-sky demonstration as well as simulations estimating the expected performance for a full tomographic AO system with laser guide stars are presented. On-sky, the scintillation index was reduced on average by a factor of 1.9, with a peak of 3.4. For a full tomographic system, we expect to achieve a maximum reduction in the scintillation index by a factor of ∼25.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4134-4146
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date7 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

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