Adaptive Optics for GTC


Brief history

Since the beginning of the design of the GTC, it was clear that in order to exploit the full diffraction-limited potential of the telescope, an Adaptive Optics (AO) system would be necessary, and provisions were made to ensure that the telescope would not limit the future AO performance. Well before the telescope entered its scientific operation, in 2009, the AO system was already in development.

The AO conceptual design was carried out during 2001, and in 2004 took place the preliminary design review. In January 2008 the project passed the Advance Design Review and started the detailed design and manufacturing. The integration of subsystems began in 2012.

The GTCAO system was initially developed by the GTC project office but due to a lack of resources in the development team, the project paused in 2013. An agreement between IAC, GTC and the Canary Government was made in order to continue the development and incorporate, as a second phase, a Laser Guide Star facility. The project restarted effectively in 2015 under IAC personnel responsibility.

In mid-2017, a complete project review was carried out by external experts in AO. It should be noted, among the various and useful recommendations, the proposal to discard the option of using the atmospheric corrector (ADC) for Day 1, leaving it as an option for improvement in the future in the case this is considered essential after the use of GTCAO at the telescope.

During 2018, the integration phase was completed and operational verification of the entire system began. The first closed loop tests of the system took place in May 2018, with satisfactory results. During 2019, the system was optimized and updated, with factory validation tests beginning in 2020. Since then and until mid-2023, these tests were completed, along with the manufacturing and provision of auxiliary components and transportation tools. In April 2023, the factory  acceptance milestone was surpassed, with the assistance and review by staff of the Gran Telescopio Canarias, completing the transport and integration on the telescope at the end of June 2023. Since that moment the instrument has been in the commissioning, both technical and scientific. It is expected to be fully operational throughout 2024.

3D model view of the GTCAO components

3D model view of the GTCAO components

View of GTCAO during AIV at the laboratory