Monday, May 13, 2002

University of Hawaii

Isle astronomer receives
award for work in optics

Francois Roddier retired from
the UH astronomy institute

Star-Bulletin staff

Francois Roddier, Hawaii scientist who pioneered adaptive optics to get clearer images from ground telescopes, has received the prestigious Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The award recognizes scientists who make important discoveries based on their work in developing new instruments and techniques.

Roddier retired from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in December 2000, and now lives in his native France.

Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, the institute's director, and Roddier's colleagues congratulated him on "significant achievements in the field of infrared astronomy."

Tobias Owen, senior faculty member and planetary astronomer, described adaptive optics as "a revolutionary technique" that allows ground-based optical/infrared telescopes such as those on Mauna Kea "to see the stars almost as if the Earth had no atmosphere."

Adaptive optics uses various methods to correct turbulence caused by Earth's atmosphere that blurs the image of a star. This can be avoided with telescopes in orbit above Earth's atmosphere, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

But Hubble is expensive to use and has less than one-tenth of the light-gathering power of the large telescopes on Mauna Kea, the astronomers said.

Consequently, scientists and engineers have followed Roddier in developing techniques to improve the image quality of large ground-based telescopes and outperform Hubble.

As leaders of the institute's Adaptive Optics Group, husband-and-wife team Francois and Claude Roddier built an elaborate system to improve the image quality of Mauna Kea telescopes.

The group developed such a successful technique that it is now used on many of the world's largest infrared telescopes.

Francois Roddier studied the birth and death of stars with his own equipment.

He and colleagues at the institute made the first ground-based detection of Neptune's ring arcs and an asteroid satellite.

UH Institute for Astronomy

E-mail to City Desk


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