Feeds

VLT brings whole sky into focus

Wider horizons for adaptive optics

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.