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Picture of The Day: Shooting Down Milky Way?

October 7, 2010

You need not worry, nobody is shooting down our galaxy. Astronomers at Very Large Telescope (VLT), Chile are simply focusing a high energy laser beam towards galactic center for observations and measurements. Taking images using ground based telescopes can be tricky as atmospheric distortions can blur the images and fine details can be lost. In order to overcome such distortions, astronomers use adaptive optics where the mirror can slightly deform in real time in response to atmospheric distortions and thus avoid blurring. For adaptive optics to work, a reference star is required which can be used for measuring the distortions caused by local atmosphere which in turn can be used to modify mirror. But suitable stars are not available everywhere in the sky, so astronomers create an artificial star using a high energy laser. The laser shown above is tuned to energize sodium atoms which are found in upper atmosphere courtesy meteorites. Laser excites sodium atoms which start glowing resulting in formation of an artificial star which can be used as a reference by the adaptive optics for clear and crisp images. Awesome, right! So that was image of the day and also my 200th post!!

Picture credit: European Southern Observatory

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1 Comment Leave a Comment

  • 1. Science Is Beautiful &raq&hellip  |  February 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    […] have posted about Keck Observatory in past, this time posting a beautiful video showing Keck observatory in action. Keck observatory is […]

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