Danish Expertise Ensures an Ultra Sharp “Eye On the Sky”

Force Technology has developed software and computation hardware architecture to ensure that the E-ELT telescope can see clearly through the atmosphere. The resulting Mirror Corrective Computer System is a highly advanced solution that provides extreme calculation capacities and a high level of flexibility.

The E-ELT’s telescope is ESO’s largest project to date. ESO’s aim is to build a telescope that will help us explore the universe’s first galaxies and increase mankind’s limited understanding of dark matter and dark energy, which make up the bulk of the universe. Scientists will also use the E-ELT to search other solar systems for planets that are similar to Earth.

All of ESO’s ambitious goals require a consistently clear and undistorted view through the telescope’s optics. But ensuring such accuracy demands a complex control system that relays on an extreme number of near real time calculations. Software and the supporting computation architecture to meet these requirements is being designed by the Danish provider of technological consultancy and services, FORCE Technology.

Atmospheric turbulence is a known problem for mirror-based telescopes located within the Earth’s atmosphere. Even small fluctuations in the air can result in flickering that can distort the image. This problem is solved by the use of laser technology to map turbulence in the atmosphere, and then by correcting the image using adaptive actuators in the optics.

In the E-ELT telescope, such adaptive mirror adjustment requires an extremely fast and accurate calculation system driven by many parallel processors. The calculation’s results must trigger commands to the 6,000 electronic motors that dynamically adjust the shape of the mirror at a rate of 500 times-a-second. Such vast and rapid data exchange requires extremely fast and stable network processing.

A robust yet flexible and scalable solution

FORCE Technology partnered with Poul-Henning Kamp, a recognized expert specialist in the development of very fast network applications. Together they designed the computing elements that drive the parallel processing for adaptive mirror adjustments according to specifications.

The resulting system matched ESO’s high demands in terms of computing capacity and speed. In consideration of the long-service life of the telescope, FORCE developed the system in a technology-neutral architecture, thus ensuring long-term scalability and flexibility, so that the solution would encompass future alterations and extensions.

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