The first light Adaptive Optics (AO) architecture for the TMT has been defined to provide near-diffraction-limited wavefront quality and high sky coverage in the near infra-red (IR) for the first TMT science instruments IRIS and IRMS. Design, fabrication and prototyping activities of the TMT first light AO systems and their components have significantly ramped up in Canada, China, France, and in the US. NFIRAOS is an order 60 x 60 laser guide star (LGS) multi-conjugate AO (MCAO) system, which provides uniform, diffraction-limited performance in the J, H, and K bands over 34 x 34 arc sec fields with 50 per cent sky coverage at the galactic pole, as required to support the TMT science cases.
The first light AO architecture for TMT consists of the following major systems:
The TMT facility AO system, NFIRAOS, enables NGSAO, LGS MCAO and Seeing-Limited observing mode. Each of the NFIRAOS science instruments will provide up to three low order on‑instrument wavefront sensors (OIWFS) and (for IRIS only) multiple on-detector guide windows (ODGW) to provide high precision tip/tilt, and (only in the case of 2x2 mode) focus and astigmatism measurements. When running at high speed, the OIWFS or ODGW measurements are used for tip/tilt, focus and plate scale control. When running at low speed, they can compensate for flexure between NFIRAOS and the science instrument. The ODGW additional compensate for flexure of the OIWFS because they are directly located on the science focal plane.
NFIRAOS has three instrument output ports. An Instrument Selection Mirror (ISM) is used to feed light to any of these three ports. At first light, these three ports are expected to be occupied by 1) IRIS, an imager and integral field spectrograph, 2) IRMS, a multi-object slit spectrograph and wide field imager that can work with modest or no AO correction, and 3) NSEN, a non-science instrument that contains an acquisition camera (NSEN ACQ) and a diffraction-limited NIR camera.
NFIRAOS has three operating modes:
In LGS MCAO mode, NFIRAOS uses six LGS wavefront sensors and the pyramid wave front sensor (PWFS) located within NFIRAOS, as well as up to three On-Instrument wavefront sensors (OIWFS) and/or up to four On-detector guide windows (ODGW) provided by client instruments.The PWFS is used as a Truth WFS (TWFS) running at low frame rate for correcting aberrations rising from changes in the sodium layer profile.The OIWFS are generally used to provide tip/tilt, focus, and plate scale control ODGW can be used as well if bright guide stars are available within the imager focal plane to provide tip/tilt measurements If faint guide stars are available within the imager focal plane, the ODGW can be used as tip/tilt truth WFS running at lower speed, to provide flexure compensation between OIWFS and instrument focal plane.There are also cases when a fast TTF OIWFS measurement cannot be used due to reasons like 1) vignetting science target, 2) extended guide object that is comparable to seeing or 3) lacking infrared guide stars, etc., the PWFS may be used instead to provide high speed but less accurate tip/tilt/focus control. The TTF OIWFS could then be used as tip/tilt/focus truth WFS with a faint guide star while other TT OIWFS and/or ODGW may be used as tip/tilt truth WFS.
In NGSAO mode, NFIRAOS uses the PWFS with a bright visible natural guide star, and optionally a TTF OIWFS and/or an ODGW, to close the AO loops. The NGS is usually a star but can be a small extended object. The PWFS running in 96x96 mode has an effective sub-aperture size of 0.31 meters and a magnitude limit of R~13.5 (RD1) for an on axis H band Strehl ratio of 50%. With a bright NGS (R<11), the NGSAO mode will provide superior on axis performance to that of LGS mode. But the performance will degrade for guide stars that are dimmer or at distances greater than about 5 arcsec from the science object.The diameter of the PWFS field stop is about 2 arcsec. Therefore the probability of missing the spots on the PWFS is about 60% as shown in , which warrants the use of the acquisition camera.
In the case of IRMS, there will be science cases where NFIRAOS will be used as an active Optics system Seeing-Limited mode. This mode is implemented as degraded NGSAO mode with PWFS binned down and operating at lower frame rate, and an optional TTF OIWFS in IRMS.
In order to make efficient use of TMT, NFIRAOS and the science instruments, the observer will need to prepare their observation in advance. To make these preparations, the observer will need access to guide star catalogues and the observation preparation software tools, including the integration time calculators and AO performance modeling tools.
The Strehl ratio delivered by NFIRAOS will depend most critically on the seeing at the time of the observation. However, other factors may also have a significant impact on the system performance. These factors include air-mass, sky transparency and background (moon phase), brightness and location of natural guide stars, etc. There may also be other trade-offs to be made; for example, is the system better with a mildly extended tip‑tilt source close to the target or using a known star that is located at the outermost limits of the tip-tilt guide field?
To properly identify the observing conditions that are required for a successful NFIRAOS observation, and make informed decisions regarding guide stars, the observer will use the OIWFS selection tool (as part of OSW), which includes the NFIRAOS AO performance modeling tool to select the optimal OIWFS guide asterism ahead of the observation using known star catalogue information, or available images. If the selected guide stars have not been used before, backup stars should also be selected in case the stars are not point source or have wrong magnitude. TMT will keep a database for guide stars that have been successfully used.
The OIWFS selection tool could also be used during the acquisition step with acquisition images taken by the NFIRAOS acquisition camera or science instruments. The OIWFS selection tool should be able to select a near optimal asterism in less than 5-10 seconds.
Observing programs will need to provide the following inputs for the successful execution of the observations:
These inputs will need to be provided by observers in a very detailed format that can be stored in the observing database so that observing programs can be efficiently sequenced. Sequencing will be key in meeting the required acquisition time budgets.
For AO observations, a backup plan should be always prepared in case:
The backup plan should ideally include NGSAO mode and seeing limited mode operations. Backup science targets may also be prepared, e.g. standard stars. Detailed parameters should be provided for each AO mode in the backup plan.
Power: 25W per LGS
Beam Quality: 85% of the laser energy in core 1.2 times the diffraction limit
Tip/Tilt Jitter: <50mas
Polarization: 98% circularly polarized
Pointing: Blind pointing accuracy of 1"
Operation downtime: <0.5%
The LGSF is responsible for generating artificial guide stars in the mesospheric sodium layer with the brightness, beam quality and asterism geometries required by both the NFIRAOS early light AO system and later AO instruments.
The baseline LGSF consists of 3 primary sub-systems:
The LGSF will provide several asterism configuration available for different operation modes:
Institute of Optics and Electronics