Feeds

VLT brings whole sky into focus

Wider horizons for adaptive optics

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) have been celebrating their first pictures with the delightfully titled MAD: Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator.

This little gadget (see picture) allows the scientists to correct for atmospheric turbulence in their observations, meaning the images they receive are of near-space quality. It also allows for image correction over the full 2x2 arcminute field of view for the first time.

Some scary looking instruments

Atmospheric turbulence causes stars to twinkle, but also blurs the fine detail of images taken from ground-based telescopes.

Adaptive optics use a computer-controlled deformable mirror to overcome the distortion brought about by the variations in the atmosphere. A dedicated camera known as a wavefront sensor passes data to the computer which makes real-time optical corrections based on the incoming data.

The technique was first used back in 1989 at the La Silla Observatory. But until now, AO systems have only been able to correct for the distortion over a small portion of the sky, up to 15 arcseconds.

The test "pictures" were taken on 25 March and were centred on three 11 magnitude stars within a 1.5 arcminute diameter circle of sky in Omega Centauri. The 'scope will continue to observe this region for a number of nights to see how well the equipment performs in a variety of viewing conditions.

"The aim of MAD is to prove the feasibility and performances of new adaptive optics techniques," says Norbert Hubin, head of the AO group at ESO.

The findings from these early tests at the third unit of the VLT will prove critical to the development of future instruments, he explained.

ESO director general Catherine Cesarsky offered her congratulations to everyone who worked on the project, describing the images as "a tremendous achievement" that would open new perspectives for very large telescopes. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.