VLT image of Neptune

If you were ever in doubt about the power of adaptive optics….take a look at this image of Neptune taken with the VLT:

Neptune from the VLT with and without adaptive optics
Neptune!  With and without adaptive optics. Credit: ESO / P. Weilbacher (AIP).

Neptune has an angular diamater of roughly 2 arcseconds (about 1/10 the current size of Mars in the sky).

The VLT is situated high up in the Atacama Desert of Chile.  The seeing is already pretty good compared to sea-level but made even better by the corrections from the adaptive optics.

It’s really heartening to see these ground-based images as the Hubble Space Telescope reaches the end of its operational life.  Here’s a comparison of VLT with HST:

Neptune from the VLT and Hubble
Neptune again!  The images were not taken at the same time.  But even so – similar levels of detail are visible in both.  Credit: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)/NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley).

It looks like we can now do as well as Hubble, if not better, from ground based observatories!

More details here: http://optics.org/news/9/7/32

Adrian

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