PALM-3000 Observers Information - 2019B

* PALM-3000 is scheduled for engineering downtime in 2019B (August through October 2019) to upgrade the WFS camera and RTC software. After the upgrade work, PALM-3000 will offer 64x mode starting in November 2019, with 16x mode planned for 2020A. The expected performance of the upgraded system (tentatively referred to as P4K) is shown here:


__Note that the upgraded system will only support the 64x and 16x modes. The below information characterizing the current instrument is retained for reference, and will be updated with measured performance as the upgraded system undergoes re-commissioning. *


PALM-3000 and its back-end instruments are optimized for high-angular resolution science at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. As the world's highest order adaptive optics system, PALM-3000 corrects for atmospheric turbulence to an unprecedented degree using a new 3,388 actuator Xinetics deformable mirror in conjunction with the former 349 actuator Xinetics DM and separate fast tip-tilt mirror. Wavefront sensing requires a bright natural guide star in proximity to the science target.

2019B Call for Proposals

PALM-3000 will be available for PHARO science and private instrument observations in 2019B.

Instruments Status

  • PALM-3000 is fully operational and supported by Palomar staff. Wavefront correction in 64x has demonstrated performance in the range of 120-140 nm RMS wavefront error (equivalent to K-Strehl = 88%), which is nearing the ultimate expected performance level of 105 nm RMS (the 105 nm requirement is for a V = 5 guide star in median seeing conditions). The peak performance of PALM-3000 in excellent seeing (0.3" Ks) is 94% K-Strehl, corresponding to 85 nm RMS (July 2014).

    The current performance of 160nm RMS has been demonstrated in 64x with V = 8 guide stars, which does approximately meet the design specification.

  • Instrument Status:
    • PHARO (public)
      • Is currently operational at the summit.
    • P1640 (decommissioned, PI: B. Oppenheimer, AMNH)
      • Coronagraph + CAL is performing routine science in a large exoplanet imaging and spectroscopic survey.
    • SDC (private; PI: G. Serabyn, JPL)
      • Stellar Double Coronagraph, working with PALM-3000 since first light in May 2014.
    • Fiber Nuller (private; PI: G. Serabyn, JPL)
      • Initial FN tests with PALM-3000 successful in June 2012.
    • TMAS (private; co-I's: R. Dekany, COO)
      • First full-aperture visible-light AO successful 27 Sept 2012. Strategies for concurrent visible + NIR observations (using PHARO) are under continuing investigation.
    • DARKNESS (private; PI: B. Mazin, UCSB)
      • Development of energy-resolving MKID imager funded by NSF in Summer 2013. Successful first light demonstrated in August 2016.
    • PARVI (private; PI: G. Vasisht, JPL)
      • PARVI is the Palomar Radial Velocity Instrument, a fiber-fed high-resolution spectrograph for precision radial velocity measurements of exoplanetary systems. Commissioning of the fiber injection unit and spectrograph is scheduled for May-July, 2019.

Measured Performance vs. NGS Brightness

  • s64 pupil sampling mode: Small (8.3cm) subapertures
    • We show below the P3K+PHARO K-band Strehl ratio obtained from September 2012 to July 2015 taken in median or better seeing conditions (1.2 or better Ks seeing) over more than 12 nights total. The mean bright star (brighter than 8th mv) Ks strehl ratio obtained in median or better seeing conditions NEAR ZENITH and after low order non common path errors are removed is 86%. When moving off of zenith, if the non common path errors are not removed, strehl ratios will degrade by 10-40% depending on local conditions. Contact the Palomar staff for more information.
  • s32 pupil sampling mode: Larger (16.2 cm) subapertures
    • We have successfully commissioned the 32x pupil sampling mode during our engineering night on March 22, 2013. The Palomar staff can now operate P3K in the 32x pupil sampling mode.
    • Based on expected P3K performance and our experience on targets between March and August 2013 (see figure below), we suggest using 64x mode on targets brighter than 10 mv if the visible seeing is at or better than 1.0". For target stars fainter than 9 mv in visible seeing greater than 1.0", 32x mode may perform better than 64x. The Palomar staff can help you determine which mode may be best given the local conditions.
    • 32x did out-perform 64x on 11.5 and 13 mv target stars on the night of March 22, 2013 in 15-20 mph surface winds and variable seeing conditions (1.0-1.7 Ksh seeing).
  • s8 pupil sampling mode: Largest (65 cm) subapertures
    • We have successfully commissioned the 8x pupil sampling mode during our engineering night on July 8, 2014. The Palomar staff can now operate P3K in 64x, 32x, and 8x pupil sampling modes.
    • 8x mode is strongly dependent on the local seeing conditions, under-performing by ~ 50% on targets fainter that 11 mv in median seeing.
  • Performance and acquisition optimizations are on-going.

Expected System Capabilities

For 2019B, PALM-3000 will support natural guide star wavefront sensing in the following correction modes:

Number of subapertures per pupil diameter WFS limiting mag WFS best performance mag Notes
64 V < 11 V < 7  
PALM-3000 correction will be best in the direction of the guide star, and fall off due to atmospheric anisoplanatism. The corrected field of view diameter will vary with conditions, but is generally expected to be between 1-2 arcmin diameter in K-band, decreasing to 10-20 arcsec in I-band.

Guide Star Selection

PALM-3000 has a patrol range for NGS selection of ~90 arcsecond in diameter (allowing a guide star up to 90" away from the science target to be utilized, with the understanding that anisoplanatism error (not accounted for in any data elsewhere on this page) degrades performance significantly beyond ~30 arc sec radius in H/K bands (and beyond ~15 arc sec in Y/J bands.)

The WFS acquisition camera FOV is ~ 95 arc sec x 80 arc sec (TBC).

Ultimate Expected Performance on Bright Guide Stars

The bright star wavefront error budget for PALM-3000 is as follows:

* Assumptions

  • Mean turbulence weighted wind speed = 9.5 m/s
  • Zenith pointing
  • Guide star brightness V ~ 5
  • AO mode: s64

Seeing r_0(0.5um) RMS residual wavefront error Strehl Ratio Notes
      r' i' Z Y J H K  
      0.62um 0.75um .88um 1.03um 1.25um 1.64um 2.2um
0.7" 0.14 m 83 nm 48% 61% 70% 78% 84% 90% 95% Variations in non-common-path errors may limit PHARO K Strehl to ~90% even in excellent seeing
1.1" (median) 0.092 m 105 nm 32% 46% 57% 66% 76% 85% 91% See above
1.6" 0.07 m 165 nm 26% 38% 47% 54% 61% 68% 73% -

Expected Observing Overheads

Instrument requirement #0480 states that PALM-3000 shall be ready to begin a science exposure < 2 minutes after the end of a telescope slew (< 1 minute goal). During science observing in 2019B, we expect observations performed in a single AO mode in a localized part of the sky to approach 2 minutes. Large changes in telescope pointing or AO pupil mode will add 5 minutes to the acquisition overhead.

Closed-loop AO image dithering on PHARO is expected to be functional at a level equal to or better than the prior PALMAO system (smallest step size ~ 5 mas), with improved non-common-path flexure during long exposures. Early engineering tests confirm PALM-3000 has improved flexure stability compared to PALMAO. These results are being quantified.

Wide-field astrometry

We do not recommend precision wide-field PHARO astrometric programs, due to the uncharacterized nature of our dual-DM-conjugate correction architecture. Contact the PALM-3000 PI for further details.

Extended objects

PALM-3000 is designed to support NGS observations of Uranus and Neptune, but optimization on these targets will require additional calibration effort. To date, in S64 mode, good correction has been obtained locking on Saturn's moon Titan (V~8 and diameter ~ 1"). Contact the PALM-3000 PI for further information.

Contact information

Technical inquiries for specific observing proposals not addressed here can be referred to Principal Investigator Richard Dekany at Caltech Optical Observatories or Seth Meeker at JPL ( 818.354.9900).

Last updated - 8 March 2019 - S. Meeker

Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
JPEGjpg 1108_P3k_S64_StrehlPerf.jpg r1 manage 66.4 K 2012-03-08 - 18:48 RichardDekany  
PNGpng Performance_Curves.png r1 manage 206.0 K 2018-03-10 - 02:30 SethMeeker  
PNGpng p3k_strehl.png r2 r1 manage 286.5 K 2015-08-22 - 23:07 RickBurruss  
PNGpng p3k_strehls.png r1 manage 137.5 K 2013-09-03 - 19:23 RickBurruss  
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Topic revision: r39 - 2019-03-08 - SethMeeker
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