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MPE News of June 22, 2010

Major Breakthrough for Large Binocular Telescope using Adaptive Optics

The next generation of adaptive optics has arrived at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona, providing astronomers with a new level of image sharpness never seen before. German institutions including the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics are major contributors to the LBT.

M 92 with Hubble
M 92 with LBT
A central region of the globular cluster M92 at 1.6 m as observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (left) and the LBT in adaptive mode (right). It is immediately clear that the resolution and depth achieved with LBT surpasses even those of the Hubble image.

Image: HST/LBT

With its two mirrors of 8.4 metres diameter, the LBT is the largest single optical telescope worldwide. The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy and Germany, who jointly built and operate the telescope as well as develop high precision instrumentation. The development and engineering of the now operational adaptive optics system at the LBT comes from Italy (INAF and others) while the University of Arizona Mirror Lab created the optical elements. The infrared camera LUCIFER, which provides imaging and spectroscopic capabilities in seeing- and diffraction limited modes, is built by a German consortium led by the Landessternwarte in Heidelberg. MPE contributes the MOS-unit handling the slit masks.

Recent advancements in adaptive optics (AO) technology to correct atmospheric blurring have steadily improved the imaging quality of earthbound telescopes over the past years. The LBT's innovative system now takes this concept to a whole new level. Already in its early tests, the LBT's adaptive optics system 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 an image sharpness ten times that of Hubble.

interner VerweisLUCIFER and LBT web pages at MPE

Other press releases:
external link MPIA press release

internal link Dr. Hannelore Hämmerle
Press Officer
Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
phone: +49 89 30000-3980
email: hanneh@mpe.mpg.de
internal link Dr. Reiner Hofmann
Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
phone: +49 89 30000-3289
email: reh@mpe.mpg.de
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