ESO Signs Contract for ELT Laser Sources

18 December 2017

ESO has signed a new agreement with TOPTICA, the German photonics company, for the production of lasers to be used in ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) adaptive optics system. TOPTICA [1], in partnership with the Canadian company MPB Communications Inc. (MPBC) [2], will build at least four laser sources for the ELT [3], helping the telescope to achieve unprecedented spatial resolution for an optical/infrared ground-based telescope. The ELT is scheduled to see first light in 2024.

The laser system for the adaptive optics system on the ELT will be based on the Four Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The Adaptive Optics Facility, which uses the 4LGSF, has already shown spectacular improvement in image sharpness on the VLT (eso1724). The TOPTICA/MPBC Guide Star Alliance was the main contractor for the laser system on the VLT (eso1613).

Adaptive optics compensate for the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling astronomers to obtain much sharper images. Lasers are used to create multiple artificial guide stars high in the Earth’s atmosphere. These points of light are used as reference light sources to allow the adaptive optics system to compensate for turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike natural guide stars, laser guide stars can be positioned anywhere to allow the full power of adaptive optics to be used over almost the entire sky.

Anticipated observations enabled by the ELT’s powerful built-in adaptive optics system include everything from studying black holes to investigating some of the youngest galaxies in the distant Universe.


[1] TOPTICA is responsible for the laser system engineering and contributes its diode and frequency-conversion technology. The work will be executed by TOPTICA Projects GmbH, which focuses on specialised laser systems such as laser guide stars.

[2] The construction of the high-powered Raman fibre amplifiers and fibre laser pump modules will be performed by MPB Communications Inc. of Montreal, Canada. MPBC has a history of providing high power Raman fibre amplifiers for submarine communications and scientific work.

[3] The ELT is designed to potentially have up to eight laser guide star systems in future.

More Information

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and by Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Frank Lison
TOPTICA Projects GmbH

Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

About the Announcement



Artist’s rendering of the ELT in operation
Artist’s rendering of the ELT in operation