Sharpest-ever space images produced
The 'Lucky' images are sharper than Hubble's
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Monday, 03, Sep 2007 03:33
The sharpest-ever images of the heavens have been captured by a new Earth-based camera.
Usually ground-based telescopes produce images ten times less detailed than those given by the space-based Hubble telescope due to blurring created by the atmosphere.
Previous attempts to reduce this blurring only worked by using infrared where smearing was reduced.
But now scientists from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a new noise-free, high-speed camera which makes high resolution imaging in visible light possible.
It is so successful that the images are twice as sharp as those from Hubble.
Known as 'Lucky Imaging', the camera has enabled the discovery of multiple star systems which are too close together and too faint to find with any standard telescope.
Lead researcher Dr Craig Mackay, from the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, said the camera is a "remarkable achievement".
"These are the sharpest images ever taken either from the ground or from space and yet we are essentially using 'Blue Peter' technology.
"Amateur Lucky Imaging is popular because the technique is so cheap and effective. The low cost means that we could apply the process to telescopes all over the world."
"The system performed even better than we were expecting," said Nicholas Law, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and principal investigator for the instrument.
"It was fantastic to watch the first images come in and see that we were easily doing better than Hubble."
Scientists behind the camera now hope to use it on large telescopes including the 8.2m Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory in Chile or the 10m Keck telescopes on the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.