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Proceedings Paper

An automated airplane detection system for the safeguard against airplane illumination from the laser guide star beacons at the MMT
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Paper Abstract

Laser beams for guide star generation are a potential hazard for aircraft. At the MMT telescope located on Mt. Hopkins in Southern Arizona, a constellation of five Rayleigh guide stars is created with a total of 25 W of projected power at 532 nm wavelength. We report operational results from an automatic system deployed at the MMT that is designed to detect aircraft and shut down the lasers if a collision with the beams appears likely. The system, building on a previous prototype, uses a wide-angle CCD camera mounted with a minimally unobstructed view to the optical support structure at the top of the telescope. A computer program reads the camera once every two seconds and calculates the difference between adjacent image pairs. The anti-collision beacons required on all aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration appear as streaks in the field. If an airplane is detected, it is located in the field relative to the laser beam and its path is projected. If aircraft are detected near or appear that they will approach the beam, the laser's safety shutter is closed and warning messages are sent to the laser operator. Failsafe operation is assured by a "heart beat" signal continuously sent from the detection system to the laser controller, and by the fact that the safety shutter must be energized to open. In the event of a power failure, the system must be manually reset by the Laser Safety Officer before the laser beam can again be propagated.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 September 2007
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 6691, Astronomical Adaptive Optics Systems and Applications III, 669109 (24 September 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.735198
Show Author Affiliations
Miguel Snyder, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (United States)
Michael Lloyd-Hart, Steward Observatory, Univ. of Arizona (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6691:
Astronomical Adaptive Optics Systems and Applications III
Robert K. Tyson; Michael Lloyd-Hart, Editor(s)

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