Professor Anand Sivaramakrishnan
Department of Physics and Astronomy
American Museum of Natural History
7:30 pm Room 001 ESS Building
Friday, February 1, 2008

A Clearer View of the Skies using Adaptive Optics

Telescopes placed on the surface of the Earth have to contend with the turbulent atmospheric heat haze that blurs their images. Space telescopes like Hubble are extremely expensive solutions to this problem. Over the last decade astronomers have developed the technique of Adaptive Optics to give ground-based telescopes even higher resolution than Hubble. Adaptive Optics has delivered exciting results on volcanic activity on Jupiter's moon Io, discovered intriguing structure around nearby stars, and revealed stellar orbits around the massive black hole at the center of our own galaxy. It has enabled us to improve our understanding of the life cycle of nearby stars, and study planetary formation outside the Solar System. It even helps medical doctors to image the retinas of our eyes more clearly!

Prof. Sivaramakrishnan will explain how Adaptive Optics works. He will describe why ground-based adaptive optics enables sharper images than space telescopes, and why space telescopes are still essential for certain kinds of astronomy.

Prof. Sivaramakrishnan has been an adjunct professor at Stony Brook since he moved to New York in 2005 to join the American Museum of Natural History's Astrophysics Department. He has built instruments for Palomar and other observatories, and has worked on Hubble instruments as well as the planned James Webb Space Telescope. He is engaged in enabling the direct imaging of planets and brown dwarfs outside our Solar System. Prof. Sivaramakrishnan lives with his family in Huntington.