Image Quality of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. I. Results of the First Flight Series

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The NASA Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) was flown three times during June and July, 1984 in order to study the causes of the poor seeing obtained with the 0.9-m telescope. High-speed pressure and temperature sensors were placed in the telescope cavity. Several thousand stellar images were recorded under various flight and optical configurations. It is found that the long-exposure image size is affected by telescope tracking errors, imperfect optics, poor optical alignment, telescope and instrument vibration, thermal fluctuations in the telescope cavity, and density fluctuations in the shear layer that forms the boundary between the cavity air and outside air. Possible ways to improve the quality of the images are discussed.

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Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, v. 101, p. 737-764