Feeds

Boffins unveil sharpest ever stellar snaps

Outdoing Hubble, from the ground

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
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
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
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
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.