Autonomous laser-adaptive-optics for few-meter-class telescopes

Robo-AO is the first autonomous laser adaptive optics system and science instrument operating on sky. The system robotically executes large scale surveys, monitors long-term astrophysical dynamics and characterizes newly discovered transients, all at the visible diffraction limit. The first of many envisioned systems has finished over 180 nights of science observing at the Palomar Observatory 60-inch telescope (with over 19,000 robotic observations executed).

As of October 2015, the system will be moving to the 2.1-m telescope at Kitt Peak for a 3 year deployment.

The Robo-AO project, led by Principal Investigator Christoph Baranec, with Software Lead Reed Riddle, Project Scientist Nicholas Law, Co-Investigator A. N. Ramaprakash, and students and collaborators, is a collaboration between Caltech Optical Observatories and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics. It is partially funded by the National Science Foundation under grants AST-0906060, AST-0960343 and AST-1207891, the Office of Naval Research under grant N00014-11-1-0903, by the Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation, by a gift from Samuel Oschin and by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.

Recent News

October 12th, 2015 It is official, Robo-AO will be re-deployed to the 2.1-m telescope at Kitt Peak, AZ. Read more about the move and the new science that will be enabled in releases from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Caltech and the University of Hawaii.

In preparation for the move to Kitt peak, team members Rebecca, Maissa and Christoph just completed the rework of the wavefront sensor to accomodate the 2.1-m telescope's longer focal length.

August 11th, 2015 Robo-AO is at the XXIX IAU General Assembly in Honolulu.

Nick presenting our latest Robo-AO/Kepler survey results and Larissa and Christoph presenting posters.

July 13th, 2015 In the summer of 2014, we successfully tested using an infrared avalanche photodiode with the Robo-AO system as both a high-speed camera and tip-tilt sensor. The results of that effort have just been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Simultaneous infrared and visible Robo-AO imaging of M15 while infrared tip-tilt guiding on a star near the center of the globular cluster.

June 10th, 2015 We are wrapping up our last Robo-AO observing run at Palomar Observatory in a few nights. The last five years have been fantastic at Palomar and we couldn't have been successful without the support of such a dedicated and helpful observatory staff. Thank you all! We will soon be hard at work preparing for our next deployment - stay tuned for an announcement soon.

The June 2015 observing team (during robotic operations): Becky, Larissa, Reed, Carl, Nick and Christoph.

March 4th, 2015 Robo-AO has discovered the second known case of a planet residing in a quadruple star system. The findings help researchers understand how multiple star systems can influence the development and fate of planets. Read more in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and in an Institute for Astronomy press release.

This artist's conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet. Robo-AO discovered the orange-red star in the upper left, bringing the total number of known stars in the system to four. The planet, a gas giant, orbits its primary star (yellow) in about a year's time. Image copyright: Karen Teramura, UH IfA.

January 27th, 2015 Visible light adaptive optics imaging from the Robo-AO system helped in accurately determining the relative sizes of the five Earth-sized planets orbiting their ancient (11.2 billion years old) host star, Kepler-444. Read more in the news and the journal paper led by the University of Birmingham's Dr. Tiago Campante.

Artist's interpretation of Kepler-444. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)