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Telescope receives upgrade, exceeds Hubble

Posted on Wednesday, 18 July, 2018 | Comment icon 9 comments

Using adaptive optics, the VLT's image is sharper than Hubble's. Image Credit: ESO / NASA / ESA
Adaptive optics technology has now made it possible for ground telescopes to take extremely sharp images.
Until recently, the only way astronomers could deal with the distortion caused by the Earth's atmosphere was to either build telescopes at high altitude or launch them in to space.

Now though, thanks to a recent innovation known as adaptive optics, it has been possible to compensate for this atmospheric distortion and obtain clearer observations from the ground.

The technology uses lasers and a deformable mirror system to correct the distortion in real-time.

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, which has been gradually improving its adaptive optics for two years, recently received a major new update.

The improvement is so significant in fact that the VLT can now take sharper images than the Hubble Space Telescope which is itself well known for capturing breathtaking photographs of the cosmos.

A recently released image of Neptune (above) shows just how far the technology has come.

Source: Popular Mechanics | Comments (9)

Tags: Adaptive Optics

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Stiff on 18 July, 2018, 18:38
Comment icon #2 Posted by Carlos Allende on 18 July, 2018, 18:58
Well I cut up a photo of Saoirse Ronan and put it in the end of my kaleidoscope.
Comment icon #3 Posted by OverSword on 18 July, 2018, 19:34
Impressive tech that.  Because it's on earth based telescopes there will still be disadvantages though, such as the earth is moving so the time that can be focused on one area is much less and you probably could not get pictures like the deep field pictures.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 18 July, 2018, 23:04
That is actually less of a problem for a ground based telescope than it is for Hubble. Hubble orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, the Earth rotates every 24 hours so Hubble is moving considerably more quickly in relation to it's target than Hubble is. For a large part of it's orbit the target will be obscured from Hubble by the Earth itself. The deep field image was not a single exposure. Hubble would look at the target area repeatedly over many days, with multiple images being added to each other. That same technique can be used on Earth based telescopes too. There are disadvantages of being o... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by fred_mc on 19 July, 2018, 6:25
Wow, really good, it is so much cheaper to take photos from Earth.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Seti42 on 19 July, 2018, 17:54
I'm not saying this is that, but I wonder when "enhanced" imaging techniques cross the line into "altered" images. ie: is this essentially photoshopping, and therefore not truly accurate? Like how we get false color space images all the time. Again, I am not saying I distrust images enhanced by scientists. I am just thinking about the issue as more of a philosophical exercise. If that makes sense. 
Comment icon #7 Posted by Aitrui on 20 July, 2018, 1:34
I think I get where you’re coming from.   I would prefer to see unaltered image data from nasa etc being provided to the mainstream public more often.    I’d like my brain to know what it is seeing and why exactly it looks that way,  which is hard when it may have been altered at several stages by human (or human programmed machine) interpretation.   There are a lot of people who assume the artistic renderings of exoplanets are actually images of planets themselves,  but even for someone who has more than a passing interest,  I wonder how many images of which I base my perceptions and ideas of... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by ChrLzs on 20 July, 2018, 6:43
Yes.. but mostly no.  Adaptive imaging of this sort is more of an averaging system, where the optics/software gradually (and genuinely) refines the image to get closer and closer to the proverbial perfect capture.  It normally involves no human intervention, and is also repeatable and checkable.  So it's not like the popular tinfoilhat approach of "Let's adjust the sliders until I see what I want!!"... I've used both techniques, and they really have little in common.... 
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 20 July, 2018, 12:25
All raw images are published on NASA site's before being processed. The unprocessed images are frequently uninformative and confusion as they are mostly black and white and taken through a  filter of a specific wavelength. As such they are nothing like the human eye would see. NASA always specifies how the image has been processed. They are extremely open about this, to the point that the images of Jupiter you see from June are processed by members of the public based on the raw images NASA has released.

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