Arizona's telescope advances improve image quality

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Astronomers can now see the stars a lot better. The U of A's Large Binocular Telescope delivers a sharper image of the night sky thanks to new adaptive optics.

The new system, called the First Light Adaptive Optics, was developed in a collaboration between Italy’s Arcetri Observatory of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory.  The new system helps overcome wavefront distortion caused by Earth's atmosphere that has plagued ground-based telescopes, until recently.

The LBT has a mirror that changes shape a thousand times per second to reduce the distortion, which will help them learn more about super massive black holes.

"They have a region of influence where their gravity dominates over everything else but that region is very small in the sky so if we can sharpen up the light, we get a very clear signal from the black hole," says Director of LBT Obsevator Richard Green.

The new optics system delivers an image more than three times sharper than the Hubble space telescope, and they hope to achieve a sharpness of up to 10x that of Hubble with the addition of adaptive optics on a second mirror.