Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

[H]ardOCP: Supersharp Images from New VLT Adaptive Optics Rival Hubble Images

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Cary Marshall | 21 July, 2018, 16:57

The crisp, clear photo was made possible because of a new system of lasers installed in the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in Chile.

While the best photograph we have of the blue giant Neptune now remains the 1989 images captured by the Voyager 2 spacecraft from a distance of just 4.4 million miles - as compared with the approximately 2.7 billion miles between Earth and Neptune - during its pass almost 30 years ago, it remains extremely encouraging for the future of modern astronomy to see such progress in defeating the technical challenges of earthbound astral observation.

Essentially, the Earth's atmosphere distorts the appearance of things in space, causing stars to twinkle and blurring distant objects.

The European Southern Observatory's ground-based Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile got an upgrade that lets it rival and even exceed the imaging efforts of NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists used the a new adaptive optics mode known as laser tomography in their observations and were able to capture remarkable images of Neptune and stellar clusters. From the ground, you have to find a way to correct that blur that makes distant objects unclear, hence why you need a reference point.

And just for fun, here's how detailed the VLT's images of surrounding star clusters are.

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These atoms serve as laser guide stars, and the light they bounce back is used to measure atmospheric turbulence.

When using the new Narrow Field Mode using laser tomography the team can correct nearly all the atmospheric turbulence above the telescope to create much sharper images, but only over a small region of the sky.

The image on the left was obtained during by the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. Therefore, the images generated using the latter mode are much narrower, but also much higher in resolution.

ESO astronomers can now use their new technique to correct for turbulence at different altitudes in the atmosphere and capture images from the ground at visible wavelengths that are sharper than those from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The ESO says the impressive technological advances will allow astronomers to study the properties of astronomical objects in much greater detail than was possible before. Adaptive optics systems use the light from these artificial stars to determine the turbulence in the atmosphere and calculate corrections one thousand times per second, commanding the thin, deformable secondary mirror of UT4 to constantly alter its shape, correcting for the distorted light.

More news: European Union slams Israel’s legislation of a Jewish ‘nation

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