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Proceedings Paper

Monitoring of the mesospheric sodium layer using a magneto-optical filter
Author(s): Patrizio Patriarchi; Alessandro Cacciani
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Paper Abstract

Adaptive optics (AO) systems for atmospheric turbulence compensation require a bright reference star for measuring and correcting wavefront distortion. For these reasons a general use of AO requires a laser guide star (LGS) to provide the wavefront information. An artificial guide star can be created by focusing a laser beam tuned to the sodium D2 line at 5890 Angstrom on the mesospheric sodium layer at about 90 km altitude and observing the resonant scattering. The D1 line of the sodium layer can be observed in absorption on early type unreddened (or slightly reddened) stars using a high resolution spectroscopic system. Recent studies have reported that the column density of the layer is temporally variable with timescales from a year down to tens of minutes. Therefore a monitoring of the column density is necessary when observing with sodium LGS. It is demonstrated that, with a sufficiently high spectral resolution, a relatively small (50 cm) telescope observing a bright star can collect in minutes the number of photons necessary to measure the equivalent width of the sodium line with a good signal-to-noise ratio, provided that an efficient spectroscopic device of suitable resolution is attached to it. We propose here a system to monitor the column density of the mesospheric sodium layer which is based on the sodium magneto-optical filter developed by A. Cacciani and already widely used in solar observations since the 70s. This filter is compact, stable in wavelength and profile shape, with high efficiency (up to 40%) and narrow profile width (20 mA). It is based on the magneto-optical activity of the sodium gas embedded in a strong transverse magnetic field. The filter has a central bandpass that can be fitted to the width of the D1 mesospheric line, plus two lateral symmetric bandpasses that observe the adjacent stellar continuum. The D1 equivalent width can be derived by observing the mesospheric sodium line in absorption on the spectrum of a bright early type (O, B, A) star.

Paper Details

Date Published: 7 July 2000
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 4007, Adaptive Optical Systems Technology, (7 July 2000);
Show Author Affiliations
Patrizio Patriarchi, Ctr. di Studio per l'Astronomia Infrarossa ed lo Studio del Mezzo Interstellare (Italy)
Alessandro Cacciani, Univ. degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italy)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4007:
Adaptive Optical Systems Technology
Peter L. Wizinowich, Editor(s)

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