Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

John Ridgely

Abstract

A conventional large aperture telescope required for binary star research is typically cost prohibitive. A prototype active optics system was created and fitted to a telescope frame using relatively low cost components. The active optics system was capable of tipping, tilting, and elevating the mirrors to align reflected star light. The low cost mirror position actuators have a resolution of 31 nm, repeatable to within 16 nm. This is accurate enough to perform speckle analysis for the visible light spectrum. The mirrors used in testing were not supported with a whiffletree and produced trefoil-like aberrations which made phasing two mirrors difficult.

The active optics system was able to successfully focus and align the mirrors through manual adjustment. Interference patterns could not be found due to having no method of measuring the mirror surfaces, preventing proper mirror alignment and phasing. Interference from air turbulence and trefoil-like aberrations further complicated this task. With some future project additions, this system has the potential to be completely automated. The success of the active optics actuators makes for a significant step towards a fully automated sparse aperture telescope.

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