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Peter Gao
Graduate student

Despite being taken only 40 miles away from the city of Vancouver, Canada, at the Large Zenith Telescope (LZT), the light pollution is low enough for one to see the starry skies, as well as a large laser being used to analyze Sodium levels in the Atmosphere. The laser excites Sodium atoms in the upper atmosphere (about 60 miles up); the atoms then reemit this radiation in random directions, some of which is then captured by the LZT. This Sodium layer is thought to originate from the breaking-up of meteorites in the atmosphere, and one can observe how the Sodium layer changes as meteorites enter the atmosphere in real time using this equipment. The Sodium layer can be used by adaptive optics systems to compensate for the blurring of astronomical objects caused by the atmosphere; thus, it is very important to better understand how this layer changes with time.

pgao@caltech.edu

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