Laboratory verification of Fast & Furious phase diversity: Towards controlling the low wind effect in the SPHERE instrument


Context. The low wind effect (LWE) refers to a characteristic set of quasi-static wavefront aberrations seen consistently by the SPHERE instrument when dome-level wind speeds drop below 3 ms$^-1$. The LWE produces bright low-order speckles in the stellar point-spread function (PSF), which severely limit the contrast performance of SPHERE under otherwise optimal observing conditions.
Aims: In this paper we propose the Fast & Furious (F&F) phase diversity algorithm as a viable software-only solution for real-time LWE compensation, which would utilise image sequences from the SPHERE differential tip- tilt sensor (DTTS) and apply corrections via reference slope offsets on the AO system’s Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor.
Methods: We evaluated the closed-loop performance of F&F on the MITHIC high-contrast test-bench, under conditions emulating LWE-affected DTTS images. These results were contrasted with predictive simulations for a variety of convergence tests, in order to assess the expected performance of an on-sky implementation of F&F in SPHERE.
Results: The algorithm was found to be capable of returning LWE- affected images to Strehl ratios of greater than 90% within five iterations, for all appropriate laboratory test cases. These results are highly representative of predictive simulations, and demonstrate stability of the algorithm against a wide range of factors including low image signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), small image field of view, and amplitude errors. It was also found in simulation that closed-loop stability can be preserved down to image S/N as low as five while still improving overall wavefront quality, allowing for reliable operation even on faint targets.
Conclusions: The Fast & Furious algorithm is an extremely promising solution for real-time compensation of the LWE, which can operate simultaneously with science observations and may be implemented in SPHERE without requiring additional hardware. The robustness and relatively large effective dynamic range of F&F also make it suitable for general wavefront optimisation applications, including the co-phasing of segmented ELT-class telescopes.

Astronomy & Astrophysics