ESO Very Large Telescope gets adaptive optics for sharper images

Neptune looks beautifully blue in sharp new telescope image

Earth-based telescope takes super-sharp image of Neptune (PHOTOS)

The image of the planet Neptune on the left was obtained during the testing of the Narrow-Field adaptive optics mode of the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. The technology was made possible by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE), which works with an adaptive optics unit and can correct for the effects of atmospheric turbulence up to one kilometer above the telescope.

The image on the left was obtained during by the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. MUSE was the first instrument to benefit from this new facility and it now has two adaptive optics modes - the Wide Field Mode and the Narrow Field Mode.

Here is how the planet looked like without the adaptive optics.

New pictures released by the European Southern Observatory utilizing the adaptive optics process have rendered a photograph of distant planet Neptune in greater detail than even that achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope built expressly for the goal of evading such atmospheric distortions. Brighter, sharper, and with less blurring, the image produced recently by the Very Large Telescope has rendered the old imagery from a superior vantage point almost obsolete.

The ESO says such sharpness is very hard to attain and allows images to be taken that are comparable in sharpness to those taken with the Hubble telescope that doesn't have to deal with the atmosphere at all.

Neptune looks beautifully blue in sharp new telescope image
This is the best photo of Neptune we have so far, and it looks amazing

With this approach, astronomers were able to bypass the biggest downside of Earth-based telescopes - dealing with the atmospheric disturbances and noise.

Simple, visual telescopy on Earth is impacted by a kind of distortion caused by the atmosphere.

ESO said that the ability to take sharp images will allow astronomers to study the properties of astronomical objects in much greater detail than before. It is manifested by pointing 4 intensely bright lasers, each of which are beamed out of 30-centimeter apertures, into the sky around unit 4 of the VLT. Adaptive optics is a technology integrated with the optical systems for beam propagation, communications and microscopy. The light from these "stars" is then analyzed to determine how it is being distorted by passage through the atmosphere. Together these major developments in adaptive optics are enhancing the already powerful fleet of ESO telescopes, bringing the Universe into focus.

"But the new Narrow Field Mode using laser tomography corrects for nearly all of the atmospheric turbulence above the telescope to create much sharper images, but over a smaller region of the sky".

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