Several billion miles from Earth, Neptune’s looking particularly sharp in a set of new images captured by one of the most powerful telescopes in the world.
Located in Chile, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) used what’s known as laser tomography to capture test images of the planet and surrounding star clusters.
The telescope’s Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument works with what’s called the GALACSI adaptive optics module. This allows the telescope to correct for turbulence at different altitudes in the atmosphere, resulting in some incredibly clear, sharp images captured from Earth.
MUSE is the first instrument to benefit from two adaptive optics modes: wide field and narrow. The narrow field mode is what’s generating these incredibly sharp images of Neptune — it corrects almost all of the turbulence above the telescope, but only over a smaller section of the sky.
Not sure how to visualize the difference? Here’s an idea of what the planet looks like through the telescope with and without adaptive optics.
ESO says these images are sharper than those taken of Neptune with the Hubble Space Telescope. Here’s a comparison between the VLT and the Hubble, which has captured an exceptional image of Neptune, but it’s undeniably not as clear.
And just for fun, here’s how detailed the VLT’s images of surrounding star clusters are.
Several billion miles away and looking crisp. While you’re out there, why not drop by Titan, Saturn’s equally sharp-looking moon?