(ORDO NEWS) — It’s hard to believe, but this picture of Neptune was not taken by a spacecraft near the giant planet. It was taken with a telescope right here on Earth.
The amazing image was taken with the MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
The instrument has recently been upgraded with a new way of observing space called laser tomography and is already showing its impressive capabilities.
Neptune, at an average distance of 4.5 billion kilometers from Earth, is quite difficult to see from Earth. The best images were taken from the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew by in 1989, and then from the Hubble Space Telescope, which can take high-quality images from Earth orbit.
However, according to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which operates the VLT, these new images from MUSE are superior to those of Hubble.
And they say the technique they’ve used here could be used for a variety of other purposes besides imaging the most distant planet in the solar system.
“This will allow astronomers to study in unprecedented detail exciting objects such as supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, jets from young stars, globular clusters, supernovae, planets and their moons in the solar system, and more,” they said.
The image is made possible by adaptive optics. As light passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, it scatters, which is why stars twinkle when you look at them.
To overcome this, the VLT, which consists of four telescopes, fires four lasers into the sky. Then he looks at how blurry those lasers are at different heights.
An algorithm that is part of the GALACSI adaptive optics device is then used to obtain the final image. This can either be an ultra-fine image of the object, or a wide-field image that views a large area of the sky but is less clear. Another image of a distant globular cluster has been released showing this in action.
ESO hopes to use this technology on its Large Telescope (ELT) to capture new stunning images of space.
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