Until relatively recently, ground-based telescopes had to live with wavefront distortion caused by the Earth’s atmosphere that significantly blurred the images of distant objects (this is why stars appear to twinkle to the human eye). While there have been advancements in adaptive optics technology to correct atmospheric blurring, the LBT’s innovative system truly takes this concept to a whole new level.
In closed-dome tests beginning May 12 and sky tests every night since May 25, astronomer Simone Esposito and his INAF team tested the new device, achieving exceptional results. The LBT’s adaptive optics system, called the First Light Adaptive Optics system (FLAO), immediately outperformed all other comparable systems, delivering an image quality greater than three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope using just one of the LBT’s two 8.4 meter mirrors. When the adaptive optics are in place for both mirrors and their light is combined appropriately, it is expected that the LBT will achieve image sharpness ten times that of the Hubble.
“This is an incredibly exciting time as this new adaptive optics system allows us to achieve our potential as the world’s most powerful optical telescope,” said Richard Green, Director of the LBT. “The successful results show that the next generation of astronomy has arrived, while providing a glimpse of the awesome potential the LBT will be capable of for years to come.”
In the initial testing phase, the LBT’s adaptive optics system has been able to achieve unprecedented Strehl Ratios of 60 to 80 percent, a nearly two-thirds improvement in image sharpness over other existing systems. The results exceeded all expectations and were so precise the testing team had difficulty believing their findings. However, testing has continued since the system was first put on the sky on May 25, the LBT’s adaptive optics have functioned flawlessly and have achieved peak Strehl Ratios of 82 to 84 percent.
“The results on the first night were so extraordinary that we thought it might be a fluke, but every night since then the adaptive optics have continued to exceed all expectations. These results were achieved using only one of LBT’s mirrors. Imagine the potential when we have adaptive optics on both of LBT’s giant eyes.” said Simone Esposito, leader of the INAF testing team.
A Decade of Effort Delivers Technological Triumph
Development of the LBT’s adaptive optics system took more than a decade through an international collaboration. INAF, in particular the Arcetri Observatory, conceived the LBT instrument design and developed the electro-mechanical system, while the University of Arizona Mirror Lab created the optical elements, and the Italian companies Microgate and ADS International engineered several components. A prototype system was previously installed on the Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) at Mt. Hopkins, Ariz. The MMT system uses roughly half the number of actuators as the LBT’s final version, but demonstrated the viability of the design. The LBT’s infrared test camera, which produced the accompanying images, was a joint development of INAF, Bologna and the MPIA, Heidelberg.
“This has been a tremendous success for INAF and all of the partners in the LBT,” said Piero Salinari, Research Director at the Arcetri Observatory, INAF. “After more than a decade and with so much care and effort having gone into this project, it is really rewarding to see it succeed so astoundingly.”
This outstanding success was achieved through the combination of several innovative technologies. The first is the secondary mirror, which was designed from the start to be a main component of the LBT rather than an additional element as on other telescopes. The concave secondary mirror is 0.91 meters in diameter (3 feet) and only 1.6 millimeters thick. The mirror is so thin and pliable that it can easily be manipulated by actuators pushing on 672 tiny magnets glued to the back of the mirror, a configuration which offers far greater flexibility and accuracy than previous systems on other telescopes. An innovative “pyramid” sensor detects atmospheric distortions and manipulates the mirror in real time to cancel out the blurring, allowing the telescope to literally see as clearly as if there were no atmosphere. Incredibly, the mirror is capable of making adjustments every one thousandth of a second, with accuracy to better than ten nanometers (a nanometer is one millionth the size of a millimeter).
More on LBT
The $120 million LBT on Mount Graham utilizes two giant 8.4 meter mirrors and with the new adaptive optics the telescope will achieve the resolution of a 22.8-meter, or approximately 75-foot telescope. Implementation of the adaptive optics is the latest of several major breakthroughs for the LBT in recent months. For example, in April a near-infrared camera/spectrograph developed by a consortium of German institutes became available to astronomers for scientific observations, allowing them to penetrate interstellar dust clouds and reveal the secrets of the youngest and most distant galaxies. The new adaptive optics will enable other such versatile instruments to achieve their full potential on the LBT.
The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy and Germany. The LBT Corporation partners are the University of Arizona on behalf of the Arizona university system, the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy, the LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Germany, representing the Max Planck Society, the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, and Heidelberg University; The Ohio State University, and The Research Corporation, on behalf of The University of Notre Dame, University of Minnesota and University of Virginia.
Dr. Markus Pössel | Max-Planck-Institut
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows
21.11.2017 | US Geological Survey
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences
22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences