Clear image from the new VLT adaptive optics

Clear image from the new VLT adaptive optics

This image of the planet Neptune was obtained during the testing period of the adaptive optical mode of the narrow field of the MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope. The image is sharper than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) received the first data with a new adaptive optical mode (laser tomography), fixing surprisingly sharp test images of Neptune and other objects. The MUSE device, together with the GALACSI adaptive optics module, can now correct for turbulence at different atmospheric heights. Now you can take pictures from Earth at visible wavelengths, and they will be more clear than the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

The MUSE device now has two adaptive optical modes: wide and narrow fields. The extended field mode associated with GALACSI corrects the effects of atmospheric turbulence 1 km above the telescope in a relatively wide field of view. But the new narrow-field mode using laser tomography corrects almost all of the atmospheric turbulence above the telescope to get clearer images, but in a smaller celestial region. The novelty will allow astronomers to study in unprecedented details such fascinating objects as supermassive black holes in galactic centers, jets of young stars, globular clusters, supernovae, planets and satellites in the Solar System, etc.

Adaptive optics - a method of compensating the effect of the blurring of the earth's atmosphere. Turbulence causes the stars to "flicker" and leads to blurry images of the Universe for large ground-based telescopes. Light from stars and galaxies is distorted, so I had to find ways to fix the problem.

For this, 4 brilliant lasers were attached, projecting columns of intense orange light 30 cm in diameter into the sky. This stimulates high sodium atoms in the atmosphere and creates artificial laser guide stars. Adaptive systems use light from their “stars” to determine the turbulence in the atmosphere and calculate corrections.

But not only MUSE was lucky. Another GRAAL adaptive optical system is already in use with the HAWK-I IR camera. In a few years, a powerful new ERIS tool will appear. Thus it will be possible to more accurately extract pictures of the distant Universe.

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