New telescope technology yields sharpest-ever views of night sky

Aug. 22, 2013 at 6:58 PM   |   Comments

TUCSON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers say a new camera and "adaptive optics" to cancel blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere yield the sharpest-ever photos of the night sky.

Installed on a telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert, the new technology has enabled the capturing of visible-light images twice as sharp as those snapped by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, they said.

Astronomers at the University of Arizona, along with U.S. and Italian colleagues, have been working on the improved telescope technology for more than 20 years, the university said in a release Wednesday.

"It was very exciting to see this new camera make the night sky look sharper than has ever before been possible," UA astronomy Professor Laird Close said.

To overcome atmospheric turbulence that plagues all ground-based telescopes, the researchers developed a very powerful adaptive optics system that floats a thin 1/16th-inch curved glass mirror in a magnetic field 30 feet above the 21-foot primary mirror of the Chile telescope.

This mirror can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1,000 times a second, counteracting the blurring effects of the atmosphere, the researchers said.

"As a result, we can see the visible sky more clearly than ever before," Close said. "It's almost like having a telescope with a 21-foot mirror in space."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Most Popular
Researchers dig up earliest evidence of snail-eating
Tropical storm Karina looks like the number 9 from space
Study explains why ER nurses do what they do
Neanderthals and humans interacted for thousands of years
Tech industry All Stars developing 'Star Trek'-style communication badges
Trending News