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

Neptune looks beautifully blue in sharp new telescope image

The Very Large Telescope, an installation located in Cerro Paranal, Chile, by the European Southern Observatory project, has recently been upgraded with so-called "adaptive optics" technology that allows for a much sharper image capture than previously possible without breaking through the atmosphere.

The newly released photo of Neptune demonstrates the telescope's greater capabilities, showing that it is now possible to capture images from the ground at visible wavelengths that are sharper than those taken by Hubble, a telescope that orbits the earth. AOF provides the adaptive optics for instruments on the VLT's Unit Telescope 4.

Neptune looks beautifully blue in sharp new telescope image

GALACSI had previously been able to work with the MUSE spectrograph to obtain wide field-of-view observations of the cosmos that were relatively free from atmospheric interference.

The resulting images, shot with the MUSE instrument and the GALACSI adaptive optics system, rival or exceed the sharpness of similar images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

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This new mode also constitutes a major step forward for the ESO's Extremely Large Telescope, which will need Laser Tomography to reach its science goals.

This image of Neptune was obtained during the testing of the Narrow-Field adaptive optics mode of the MUSE/GALACSI instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. This is extremely hard to attain in the visible and gives images comparable in sharpness to those from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

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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.

Growing importance for improving the quality of optical systems by utilizing adaptive optics technology is the key factor contributes the growth of global adaptive optics market. Therefore, the images generated using the latter mode are much narrower, but also much higher in resolution.

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No longer limited by atmospheric blur, cosmologists can examine-"in unprecedented detail"-objects like supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, jets from young stars, globular clusters, supernovae, planets and their satellites, yada yada yada". The image on the right is the view from the Narrow-Field Mode of MUSE when adaptive optics are switched on. The new tool works by beaming four lasers into the sky that generate intense orange light 30 centimeters in diameter. A secondary mirror corrects the atmospheric distortion as turbulence is measured in real time.

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