Gemini Observatorys new spectrograph, without the help of adaptive optics, recently captured images that are among the sharpest ever obtained of astronomical objects from the ground.
Along with the images and spectra acquired during recent commissioning of the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the 8-metre Gemini South Telescope in Chile, one image is particularly compelling. This Gemini image reveals remarkable details, previously only seen from space, of the Hickson Compact Group 87 (HCG87). HCG87 is a diverse group of galaxies located about 400 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Capricornus. A striking comparison with the Hubble Space Telescope image of this object, including resolution data, can be viewed at http://www.gemini.edu/media/images_2003-3.html
"Historically, the main advantage of large ground-based telescopes, like Gemini, is the huge mirrors that collect significantly more light for spectroscopy than is possible with a telescope in space," said Phil Puxley, Gemini Associate Director of the Gemini South Telescope located on Cerro Pachón, Chile. He explains "The Hubble Space Telescope is able to do things that are impossible from the ground. However, ground-based telescopes like Gemini, when conditions are right, approach the quality of optical images now only possible from space. One key area - spectroscopy of faint objects, which requires large apertures and fine image quality - is where large telescopes like Gemini provide a powerful, complementary capability to space-based telescopes."
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