A new technology is allowing astronomers to take sharper than ever photographs of the night sky, revealing secrets of the solar system and the universe beyond.
Deployed at the Magellan telescope in the Chile desert, the new space camera technology, called MagAP (for Magellan Adaptive Optics), was developed by the University of Arizona, the Arcetri Observatory near Florence, and the Carnegie Observatory. It involves a staggering mirror 21-feet in diameter mirror, making its images twice as sharp as those made by the Hubble Space Telescope with its puny eight-foot mirror.
As UA astronomy professor Laird Close stated on UA News: “We can, for the first time, make long-exposure images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across – the equivalent of a dime viewed from more than a hundred miles away. At that resolution, you could see a baseball diamond on the moon.”
Maybe that golf ball Alan Shepard hit on the moon is still around. Let’s look! The sharp eye on the night sky, which cuts through atmospheric flickering by vibrating a thousand times a second, has already made some discoveries that were published this week in Astrophysics Journal, such as the previously visually undetectable separation between two stars in the Orion Nebula. What will be revealed next? Perhaps we can find out what the Voyager is up to since it left the solar system, or get an insanely close look at Mars as it comes close to us in its orbit this month.
Click here to view more images taken by the telescope.