More than twice as sharp as Hubble
A team of astronomers from three institutions has developed a new type of telescope camera that makes higher resolution images than ever before, the culmination of 20 years of effort. The team has been developing this technology at telescope observatories in Arizona and now has deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5m (21 foot) telescope. Carnegie’s Alan Uomoto and Tyson Hare, joined by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Arcetri Observatory in Italy, will publish three papers containing the highest-resolution images ever taken, as well as observations that answer questions about planetary formation, in The Astrophysical Journal.
“It was very exciting to see this new camera make the night sky look sharper than has ever before been possible” said Laird Close of the University of Arizona, who was the project’s principal scientist. “We, for the first time, can make deep images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across—this is a very small angle—it is like resolving the width of a dime seen from 100 miles away, or like resolving a convoy of three school busses driving together on the surface of the Moon.”
This improvement results from the use of a large 6.5m telescope for photography at its theoretical resolution limit for wavelengths of visible light. Previously, large telescopes could make sharp photos only in infrared (long wavelength) light. Even large telescopes, those equipped with complex adaptive optics imaging cameras, could only make blurry images in visible light. The new camera can work in the visible spectrum and can make high-resolution photos, because as the resolution moves towards bluer wavelengths, the image sharpness improves.
To correct for atmospheric turbulence, the team developed a very powerful adaptive optics system that floats a thin (1.6 mm –1/16 of inch thick) curved glass mirror (85 cm across) on a magnetic field 9.2m above the big primary mirror of the telescope. This, so-called Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1000 times a second. In this manner the “blurring” effects of the atmosphere can be removed, and thanks to the high density of actuators on this mirror, astronomers can see the visible sky more clearly than ever before.
“The Magellan community is delighted to have this powerful new capability, a final addition to our current instrument suite,” said Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories. “It also represents a significant technical milestone for the Giant Magellan Telescope.”
The new adaptive optics system, called MagAO, has already made some important scientific discoveries. As the system was being tested, the team tried to resolve the famous star that gives the Great Orion Nebulae most of its UV light. This 1 million-year-old star is called Theta 1 Ori C and it is about 44 times the mass of the Sun. It was already known to be a binary star (two stars rotating around each other); however, the separation between them is so small that this famous pair has never been resolved into two stars in a direct telescope photo. Once MagAO and VisAO (its visible-light camera) were pointed towards Theta Ori 1 C, the results were exciting and immediate.
The team also mapped out all the positions of the brightest nearby cluster stars and was able to detect very small motions as the stars slowly revolved around each other. Indeed a small group of five stars called Theta 1 Ori B was is likely a bound “mini-cluster” of stars, one that may eject the lowest mass star of the five in the near future.
The team also managed to address a longstanding question about how planets form.
The Latest on: Photos of the Night Sky
How to take photos of fireworks during Thunder with smartphones
on April 18, 2018 at 3:10 pm
A big, wide shot of the night sky should look awesome. You want to shoot at a slow ... Burst mode: Later iPhones and many Androids have this feature, which lets you take a bunch of photos in a small period of time. This ensures a way to capture fireworks. […]
The Most Amazing Lyrid Meteor Shower Photos of All Time
on April 17, 2018 at 8:32 am
during the April 21-22 peak of the 2012 Lyrid meteor shower. Veteran night sky photographer Brad Goldpaint took this amazing photo of the Milky Way and a Lyrid meteor over Crater Lake, Oregon, during three years of astronomical photo sessions. The image is ... […]
Hand of the Desert at night
on April 5, 2018 at 5:00 am
One of our favorite night sky photographers, Yuri Beletsky ... It’s located about 47 miles (75 km) to the south of the city of Antofagasta, Chile. Yuri posted this photo to EarthSky Facebook on March 30, 2018, and wrote: Hand of the Desert under the ... […]
March marks start of spring, parade of planets in night sky
on March 1, 2018 at 7:56 am
(Photo credit: Greg Redfern) WASHINGTON — Had enough of winter ... Jupiter is currently the second-brightest object in the night sky — only the moon is brighter. Venus will become the brightest planet later in the month. During the summer months ... […]
N.J. Night Sky: Orion soars high in the winter sky
on February 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm
Orion, the hunter, is one of the most well-known constellations in the night sky. Now is the perfect time to view it. Orion is at its highest point in the southern sky at 8 p.m. The most recognizable part of Orion is his belt. Alnilam is the bright star at ... […]
These stunning photos of the starry California sky will amaze you
on February 7, 2018 at 5:32 am
A starry night sky in California is always dazzling ... It was an amazing spectacle.” "Several are images stacks and one or two are single frames," he said of his photos. The phytoplankton are most likely dinoflagellates, according to Steve Haddock ... […]
Super Blue Blood Moon quite a sight in the night sky
on January 31, 2018 at 9:00 pm
CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Tuesday night’s full moon was not just any full moon. It was a Super Blue Blood Moon and eclipse. “I saw it on TV and it looked pretty interesting and I saw some of the pictures and it looked very exciting,” said Jim Lafond ... […]
Videos show meteorite exploding in the night sky over Michigan
on January 17, 2018 at 6:18 am
Videos and photos of the meteorite streaking through the night sky over Michigan have flooded social media, though some offer a better view than others. We have chosen a few of the better videos out there, and you can see them all embedded in the post below. […]
PHOTOS | First and only supermoon of 2017 lights up night sky
on December 4, 2017 at 4:00 am
Stargazers, astronomers and curious sky-watchers had the chance to witness the first and only full-moon supermoon of 2017. On Sunday night, the moon appeared 16% brighter and 7% larger than its usual size. Last year, a memorable supermoon was marked in the ... […]
Photo of the week: Night sky
on October 28, 2017 at 5:00 am
The blending of galactic bodies and colors visible from Guam can be awe-inspiring. Kevin Wang captures the mid-August night sky when the Dark Horse Nebula and Scorpio constellation were visible. Wang said he captures photos of the stars to show others the ... […]
via Google News and Bing News