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Proceedings Paper

The scientific impact of reaching the diffraction limit with ELTs
Author(s): Claire E. Max; Elizabeth Barton
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Paper Abstract

The new generation of extremely large telescopes (ELTs) will have key advantages over today's 8-10m telescopes. They will collect more light due to their larger area: light-gathering power scales as the telescope diameter D2, so gains of a factor of ~10 or more are expected. Further, with adaptive optics performing at close to the diffraction limit, ELTs will have much higher point-source sensitivity. This is because for observations limited by background light from the sky, there will be less background included within a diffraction-limited area. Point-source sensitivity will improve at least as fast as D4, permitting gains of a factor of 70 - 100. We describe a few of the areas of astronomical science which stand to benefit from these huge performance improvements: 1) Direct imaging and spectroscopy of giant extrasolar planets, and of protoplanetary disks. 2) Resolved stellar populations and in particular the kinematics of stars close to the black hole at the Galactic Center, and 3) Properties of galaxies at redshifts from 1.5 to 7, to shed new light on the processes of galaxy assembly and evolution. These and other new science capabilities will enable ELTs to produce dramatic advances in astrophysical understanding.

Paper Details

Date Published: 27 July 2010
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 7736, Adaptive Optics Systems II, 773602 (27 July 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.861782
Show Author Affiliations
Claire E. Max, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz (United States)
Elizabeth Barton, Univ. of California, Irvine (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7736:
Adaptive Optics Systems II
Brent L. Ellerbroek; Michael Hart; Norbert Hubin; Peter L. Wizinowich, Editor(s)

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