The world's most powerful telescope - a ground-based one, no less - has made its first set of observations.
The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona uses sophisticated adaptive optics to compensate for the distortion caused by the Earth’s atmosphere that blurs the images of distant objects.
In tests over the last month, astronomer Simone Esposito
and his INAF team found that the LBT’s adaptive optics system,
the First Light Adaptive Optics system (FLAO), gave an image quality over three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope using just one of the LBT’s two 8.4 meter mirrors.
"The results on the first night were so extraordinary that we thought it might be a fluke, but every night since then the adaptive optics have continued to exceed all expectations," said
Simone Esposito, leader of the INAF testing team.
"These results were achieved using only one of LBT’s mirrors. Imagine the potential when we have adaptive optics on both of LBT’s giant eyes."
When these are in place and their light is combined appropriately, the team reckons the LBT will achieve ten times the image sharpness of Hubble.
"This is an incredibly exciting time, as this new adaptive optics system allows us to achieve our potential as the world’s most powerful optical telescope," says Richard Green, Director of the LBT.
"The successful results show that the next generation of astronomy has arrived, while providing a glimpse of the awesome potential
the LBT will be capable of for years to come."