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A deformable mirror can be used to correct wavefront errors in an astronomical telescope.
Illustration of a (simplified) adaptive optics system. The light first hits a tip–tilt (TT) mirror and then a deformable mirror (DM) which corrects the wavefront. Part of the light is tapped off by a beamsplitter (BS) to the wavefront sensor and the control hardware which sends updated signals to the DM and TT mirrors.


Adaptive optics (AO) is a technology used to improve the performance of optical systems by reducing the effect of wavefront distortions: it aims at correcting the deformations of an incoming wavefront by deforming a mirror in order to compensate for the distortion. It is used in astronomical telescopes<ref> {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> and laser communication systems to remove the effects of atmospheric distortion, in microscopy,<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> optical fabrication<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> and in retinal imaging systems<ref> {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> to reduce optical aberrations. Adaptive optics works by measuring the distortions in a wavefront and compensating for them with a device that corrects those errors such as a deformable mirror or a liquid crystal array.

Adaptive optics should not be confused with active optics, which works on a longer timescale to correct the primary mirror geometry.

Other methods can achieve resolving power exceeding the limit imposed by atmospheric distortion, such as speckle imaging, aperture synthesis, and lucky imaging, or by moving outside the atmosphere with space telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.


Adaptive optics sections
Intro   History    Tip\u2013tilt correction    In astronomy    In retinal imaging    Other uses    Beam stabilization    See also    References    Further reading    External links   

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