Abstract

The performance of natural guide star adaptive-optics systems for telescopes located on the Antarctic plateau is evaluated and compared with adaptive-optics systems operated with the characteristic mid-latitude atmosphere found at Mauna Kea. A 2-m telescope with tip-tilt correction and an 8-m telescope equipped with a high-order adaptive-optics system are considered. Because of the large isoplanatic angle of the South Pole atmosphere, the anisoplanatic error associated with an adaptive-optics correction is negligible, and the achievable resolution is determined only by the fitting error associated with the number of corrected wave-front modes, which depends on the number of actuators on the deformable mirror. The usable field of view of an adaptive-optics equipped Antarctic telescope is thus orders of magnitude larger than for a similar telescope located at a mid-latitude site; this large field of view obviates the necessity for multiconjugate adaptive-optics systems that use multiple laser guide stars. These results, combined with the low infrared sky backgrounds, indicate that the Antarctic plateau is the best site on Earth at which to perform high-resolution imaging with large telescopes, either over large fields of view or with appreciable sky coverage. Preliminary site-testing results obtained recently from the Dome Concordia station indicate that this site is far superior to even the South Pole.

© 2004 Optical Society of America

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