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Private Foundations Fund New Astronomy Tool


The W. M. Keck Observatory has been awarded two major grants to help build a $4 million laser system as the next leap forward in a technology which already enables ground-based telescopes to exceed the observational power of telescopes in space. The new laser, when installed on the current adaptive optics system on the Keck II telescope, will improve the performance of the system and advance future technology initiatives.

“Ever since Galileo, astronomers have been building bigger telescopes to collect more light to be able to observe more distant objects,” said Peter Wizinowich, who leads the adaptive optics developments at Keck Observatory. “In theory, the larger the telescope the more detail you can see. However, because of the blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere, a 10-inch or a 10-meter telescope see about the same amount of detail.”

There are two solutions to this problem, Wizinowich said: put a telescope in space or use adaptive optics technology to cancel out the distortions of the atmosphere. W. M. Keck Observatory helped pioneer the astronomical use of adaptive optics in the 1990’s, and now delivers images three to four times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/1.5_million_for_next_generation_laser

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