Feeds

Boffins unveil sharpest ever stellar snaps

Outdoing Hubble, from the ground

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
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.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.