The in-focus PSF optimizer (IPO) is an algorithm for use in monitoring and controlling the alignment of the segments of a segmented-mirror astronomical telescope. IPO is so named because it computes wavefront aberrations of the telescope from digitized point-spread functions (PSFs) measured in in-focus images. Inasmuch as distant astronomical objects that behave optically as point sources can typically be seen in almost any astronomical image, the main benefit afforded by IPO may be to enable maintenance of mirror-segment alignments without detracting from valuable scientific-observation time.

IPO evolved from prescription-retrieval type algorithms. Prescription retrieval uses in-focus and out-of-focus PSFs to infer the state of an imaging optical system. The state, in this context, refers to the positions, orientations, and low-order figure errors of the optical elements in the system. Both prescription-retrieval and IPO use an iterative, nonlinear, least-squares optimizer to compute the optimal state parameters such that a digital computer-generated model image matches the digitized image acquired from the real system.

The difference between IPO and prescription-retrieval algorithms is that IPO is specifically designed to utilize in-focus images only. Although the restriction to in-focus images limits IPO to calculating only the lowest-order wave front aberrations, it also causes the resulting computation to take much less time because fewer degrees of freedom are included in the optimization process.

In the prescription retrieval software developed at JPL, the model images are generated using the ray-trace/physical optics program, MACOS. IPO, on the other hand, uses a linear sensitivity matrix to compute the exit-pupil wave front from the system parameters; the wave front is then converted into a complex pupil field, which is then propagated to the image plane via a fast Fourier transform. This approach is computationally faster and requires less computer memory than is needed for prescription retrieval.

This work was done by Catherine Ohara, David Redding, Fang Shi, Joseph Green, Philip Dumont, Scott Basinger, and Andrew Lowman of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Laura Burns and Peter Petrone of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Information Sciences category. NPO-30733

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Measuring Low-Order Aberrations in a Segmented Telescope

(reference NPO-30733) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the April, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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