Starts With A Bang

The ultimate quad-laser foreshadows a new development in ground-based astronomy (Synopsis)

The four beams emerging from the new laser system on Unit Telescope 4 of the VLT. Image credit: ESO/F. Kamphues.

“This event marks the culmination of many years of hard work on behalf of all involved.” -Jane Bachynski

If you want to take an ideal image of the Universe, you need to not only minimize your light pollution, cloud cover and build the largest-aperture telescope you can, you also need to take away as much of the atmospheric distortion as you can.

The effects of the Earth’s Atmosphere on the Telescopic Image of alpha Piscium from Edinburgh and from Alta Vista 10,700 ft., compared. From a 1863 engraving by Charles Piazzi Smyth, in the public domain.

Typically, this involved building your telescopes at as high an altitude as possible, or ideally, going to space. However, adaptive optics technology recently (in 2012) surpassed the Hubble Space Telescope in at least some circumstances, and the latest development, of the 4 Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF), is poised to blow the old records out of the water.

Schematic view of the different components of the 4LGSF. Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

Go get the full story on this amazing new system at Paranal Observatory!