A team of astronomers from around the world has created a new type of camera that captures the sharpest visible light images of our night sky yet.
Developed over 20 years, the new MagAO system overcomes atmospheric turbulence (which has always plagued ground-based telescopes) by literally floating a thin curved mirror on a magnetic field 30 feet above the telescopes primary mirror.
This hovering wonder has the ability to “change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1,000 times each second, counteracting the blurring effects of the atmosphere.” As a result, we’re now seeing images twice as sharp as those possible with the space-based Hubble Telescope.
“It was very exciting to see this new camera make the night sky look sharper than has ever before been possible,” UA astronomy professor Laird Close, the project’s principal scientist, said in a statement. “We can, for the first time, make long-exposure images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across – the equivalent of a dime viewed from more than a hundred miles away. At that resolution, you could see a baseball diamond on the moon.”
Below is a closeup picture of the Orion nebula – taken with the Schulman Telescope at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter. Amazing.