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Durham University

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Shepherd, H., Osborn, J., Wilson, R.W., Butterley, T., Avila, R., Dhillon, V. & Morris, T.J. (2014). Stereo-SCIDAR: optical turbulence profiling with high sensitivity using a modified SCIDAR instrument. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 437(4): 3568-3577.

Author(s) from Durham


The next generation of adaptive optics systems will require tomographic reconstruction techniques to map the optical refractive index fluctuations, generated by the atmospheric turbulence, along the line of sight to the astronomical target. These systems can be enhanced with data from an external atmospheric profiler. This is important for Extremely Large Telescope scale tomography. Here we propose a new instrument which utilizes the generalized Scintillation Detection And Ranging (SCIDAR) technique to allow high sensitivity vertical profiles of the atmospheric optical turbulence and wind velocity profile above astronomical observatories. The new approach, which we refer to as ‘stereo-SCIDAR’, uses a stereoscopic system with the scintillation pattern from each star of a double-star target incident on a separate detector. Separating the pupil images for each star has several advantages including increased magnitude difference tolerance for the target stars; negating the need for re-calibration due to the normalization errors usually associated with SCIDAR; an increase of at least a factor of 2 in the signal-to-noise ratio of the cross-covariance function and hence the profile for equal magnitude target stars and up to a factor of 16 improvement for targets of 3 mag difference and easier real-time reconstruction of the wind-velocity profile. Theoretical response functions are calculated for the instrument, and the performance is investigated using a Monte Carlo simulation. The technique is demonstrated using data recorded at the 2.5-m Nordic Optical Telescope and the 1.0-m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope, both on La Palma.