New Adaptive Optics-Enabled Device Gives Astronomers Deeper View into Space

4 July 2013

Newly released pictures of space created with a new device using a revolutionary adaptive optics system point to the instrument's potential to give astronomers a better look at the universe, Nanowerk News has reported. The seven ultrasharp, large-field images, taken at the Gemini Laboratory in Chile by scientists using the instrument for the first time, confirm that space can now be captured without the usual distortions created by the Earth's atmosphere.

The first science observations with the device imply "an incredible capability that leaps ahead of anything in space or on the ground," said Robert Blum, deputy director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Blum and his team are now using the new adaptive optics technology, nicknamed GeMS, to explore what is in and around star clusters. The scientists have released images of star-forming regions, colliding galaxies and a cluster known as RMC 136.

The GeMS-enabled images have been taken with the help of several lasers and deformable mirrors fitted in the adaptive optics system, which remove blurriness usually obstructing the clearness of images taken from ground-based devices. Unlike other telescopes based on adaptive optics technology, GeMS uses a technique named "multi-conjugate adaptive optics" which not only increases the possible size of sky area a telescope can take in a single shot, but also creates distinct images across the entire field captured. These capabilities optimise the observatory's eight-meter mirror by between 10 and 20 times, giving astronomers the opportunity to either observe deeper into space or to monitor parts of the universe with a broader range of filters to examine new structural details.