A new picture of Neptune was taken by astronomers, with the help of The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), which is located in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Innovative technology allowed for a very sharp image of the farthest planet in the Solar System to be captured.
New optics for the telescope
A new type of adaptive optics, named laser tomography, is the new “upgrade” that was done to VLT. It appears that adaptive optics is able to correct images for the turbulence created by our planet’s atmosphere. After all, this is the main enemy of both scientists and non-professional photographers when taking pictures of the sky. The turbulence is caused by the air density and the fluctuations of temperature, which makes it pretty hard for people to take clear photographs of stars, planets or galaxies. Let’s not forget that this is also the reason why we see the stars sparkling in the sky.
The new features of VLT will improve the quality of pictures of the sky
Luckily, the telescope’s features can overcome the obstacles created by Earth’s atmosphere. By using four extremely bright lasers, columns of 30 centimeters in diameter are projected into the sky, thus creating an artificial guide star for VLT to focus on. Afterwards, the light of the star is used to find out more about the atmospheric turbulence. Then, the telescope starts making 1,000 calculations per second, while changing the shape of one of its mirrors, in order to correct the distortion.
The good part about the new changes made to the telescope is that it is now capable of correcting just about any turbulence, which means that sharper images can be taken by VLT. This will produce pictures almost as clear as the ones from Hubble, which can take great, clear images of the sky because it is above our planet’s atmosphere. The new technology will be used by astronomers to study supermassive black holes, supernovas and other celestial bodies.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.