Laser Guide Star to be installed at the VLT
Making high quality observations from Earth’s surface is a challenge. The atmosphere causes turbulence causing the the twinkle that we see in the stars, and also making them blur. Without any correction the resolution of a giant telescope generally isn’t much better than a 0.1m aperture telescope.
In order to compensate for this distortion, astronomers created what is called adaptive optics. Adaptive optics is where they observe a close star and measure the blurring of it. They then use a deformable mirror to cancel out the distortion. However, when there isn’t a close bright star, they need an artificial one. This is where the new laser comes in: it will be much more compact than the previous model and will have a power upgrade from 5W to 18W. This breakthrough in technology will allow much better imaging; a quality higher than Hubble.
(Image credit: TNO/Fred Kamphues/ESO)