Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 April 2016
During the period covered by this report, major progresses have been achieved in various fields of astronomical techniques and instruments. The era of large telescopes has been opened with the commissioning of the 2 Keck telescopes and the final construction phase for major facilities (ESO, JNLT, LBT, Gemini, etc). More than ten telescopes, with aperture larger than 8m, will be ready to scrutinize the sky, at the beginning of the next century. A Spanish project (GRANTBCAN) remains incompletely financed at this time. The power of these telescopes will be maximum when full diffraction limit capabilities will be available at their focus. The period 1994-1997 has seen major and spectacular achievements with realisation of several operationnal adaptative optic systems on 4m-class telescopes (ESO, CFHT). Diffraction limits have been reached at near-IR wavelength and partial correction, even in the visible, are bringing resolution comparable to space observations. All 8-10m projects require adaptative optics and have plans for it. In the meantime, 3-4m class telescopes are beeing equiped as well, so that AO will appear everywhere within the next 3 years. The necessary complement of adaptive optics, ie: the laser guide star, is thoroughly studied in order to provide full coverage for atmospheric compensation all over the sky. Projects of monochromatic and polychromatic laser stars are flourishing in relation with all telescopes with aperture of 3m-plus adaptative optics projects. Field coverage and achievable resolution require good pixel sampling and therefore large format detectors. Projects of very large format cameras for the visible and infrared are considered, up to 16kxl6k (MEGACAM at CFHT for 1.5 degrees field). Progress has been obtained in the industry to reduce gaps in between bootable CCDs, to reduce amplifiers noise and improve sensitivity. High angular resolution capabilities will gain another magnitude when the actual developments on interferometry with small telescopes will be tranfered to arrays of large telescopes (ESO, Keck, etc). Resolutions of 0.001 arc. sec will be available within 5 years leading to a gain of a factor 1000 compared to a 3.5m telescope operating today without adaptive optics.
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