A team of astronomers from Cambridge and Caltech recently used a ground-based camera called “Lucky” to take stellar pictures that are much sharper than those taken by the beloved Hubble telescope—and cost 50,000 times less.
The photos above show the famous Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543), 3,000 light-years away from us, as taken by a standard 200-inch telescope (left) and with the Lucky Camera attached to the same telescope (right). The Lucky camera can zoom in on the kots, jets and arcs that make up the Nebula’s core.
Ground-based telescopes are usually less than ideal for space photos because the Earth’s atmosphere gets in the way, blurring the images. But the Lucky technology—around since the ’70s—overcomes this by taking images of the same stars at a super-high rate: 20 frames per second. Because the Earth’s atmosphere constantly fluctuates, some of these shots blur less than others. The team used computers to merge the best images into the final product.
Check out the researchers’ website for photos of shiny Lucky itself and to read more about its latest gazings.