Feeds

Boffins unveil sharpest ever stellar snaps

Outdoing Hubble, from the ground

High performance access to file storage

Astronomers working at the Palomar observatory have taken some of the clearest ever pictures of space. A US and UK team of stargazers have taken advantage of new adaptive optics technology to out-do even the Hubble Space Telescope for sharpness.

The problem with taking pictures of stars from the ground is that the atmosphere gets in the way. One way round this is to put your camera in space. But the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy scientists have developed a technique that takes advantage of fluctuations in atmospheric haze to snap the sharpest possible image of the heavens.

The Globular cluster M13 as imaged conventionally, and with Lucky adaptive optics

The boffins explain: "The camera works by recording the images produced by an adaptive optics front-end at 20 frames per second or more. Software then checks each one to pick the sharpest ones. Many are still quite significantly smeared but a good percentage are unaffected. These are combined to produce the image that astronomers want. We call the technique "Lucky Imaging" because it depends on the chance fluctuations in the atmosphere sorting themselves out."

Adaptive optics has been used to resolve binary systems in the infrared where previously astronomers could only see smudges. The technology has sharpened up views of singles stars too, but the newly released pictures of the Cat's Eye nebula and the M13 globular cluster (above) are quite possibly the most stunning images produced yet.

In the M13 globular cluster, the stars are crammed together as little as one light day apart. The adaptive optics allow us to see that separation for the first time, even though we are 25,000 light years away. (Although this is still a terrifyingly long way for a human to contemplate travelling, the nearest star to our own sun is a whopping four light years away.)

More pics here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.