Earth-based telescope takes super-sharp image of Neptune

21 Juillet, 2018, 16:56 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Earth-based telescope takes super-sharp image of Neptune

This is an impressive achievement and has allowed Unit 4 to capture high-quality images of subjects, such as the planet Neptune, without the haloing effect added by atmosphere under normal circumstances. The installation released the first results of observations made using laser tomography, the new adaptive optics mode on its GALASCI unit, which works in tandem alongside a spectrograph tool called MUSE mounted to one of the telescopes.

There are no spacecraft now orbiting Neptune, so if astronomers want images of the planet, they need to take them from some 4.6 billion kilometers (2.9 billion miles) away.

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.

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

The Earth's atmosphere can distort the appearance of objects in space, blurring distant objects and causing stars to twinkle. Adaptive optics technology commonly used in telescopes to enhance the atmospheric aberrations, and also used across various applications including biological research, laser communication and retinal imaging.

The Neptune image on the right is without the adaptive optics system in operation and the one on the left after the adaptive optics are switched on.

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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. The result is very sharp images seen here.

Compared to pictures taken from the same telescope without the adaptive optics technique, the difference is even more striking.

GALACSI works through the Laser Guide Star principle of adaptive optics.

The pioneering MUSE instrument in Narrow-Field Mode, working with the GALACSI adaptive optics module, can now use this new technique to correct for turbulence at different altitudes in the atmosphere.

"It will enable astronomers to study in unprecedented detail fascinating objects such as supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, jets from young stars, globular clusters, supernovae, planets and their satellites in the solar system and much more."
Of course, having sharp images of objects allows you to study them in better detail, and gives astronomers a better chance to understand what they look like and how they were formed.

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