Thursday July 19, 2018

Supersharp Images from New VLT Adaptive Optics Rival Hubble Images

The Very Large Telescope array (VLT) can now take images of distant objects with the same sharpness as the Hubble Space Telescope. It's able to do this by using an adaptive optics unit called the GALASCI. This technology filters out almost all of the atmospheric blurring encountered by terrestrial based telescopes. Because of their new capability this will enable astronomers to study areas of the sky that were otherwise understudied due to lack of Hubble telescope time. To top things off the new Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will utilize this capability when it comes online. I can't wait to see what kind of discoveries come next.

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Adaptive optics is a technique to compensate for the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere, also known as astronomical seeing, which is a big problem faced by all ground-based telescopes. The same turbulence in the atmosphere that causes stars to twinkle to the naked eye results in blurred images of the Universe for large telescopes. Light from stars and galaxies becomes distorted as it passes through our atmosphere, and astronomers must use clever technology to improve image quality artificially.