Folks at the University of Arizona, the Carnegie Observatory, and the Arcetri Observatory in Florence have been hard at work for over 20 years to develop a camera that can photos of space that are twice as sharp as the ones taken by the Hubble. Given the detail and beauty of the image above, you can understand why it would have taken so long. The technology inside can deliver resolution that’ll show a baseball diamond on the moon clearly. It’s a wonderful accomplishment with thoroughly impressive working parts.
Part of what makes photographing space so difficult is atmospheric turbulence which can give your fanciest camera a hard time. To compensate for that, the camera has 2.8 ft curved glass mirror that’s 1/16 in floating on a magnetic field 30 ft above the main mirror which is 21 ft across. The super-thin mirror is called the Adaptive Secondary Mirror because it can change shape at 585 points 1,000 times per second.
The optics system is known as Magellan Adaptive Optics, MagAO for short, and it can take long-exposure photos that “resolve objects up to .02 arcseconds across” according to UA News. The first test of the technology’s power was pointing it at Theta 1 Ori C, a binary star. The distance between the pair, however, was far too small for the Hubble to take an image with any real clarity that could distinguish between the two. Once they pointed the camera at it, they saw the separation.
The truly stunning results are on a massive scale like the lead image of this article. The camera is currently at the Magellan telescope in Chile, and we all cannot wait for more images. Space photography is a favorite here at the Phoblographer, and we can only imagine what this camera will produce later.
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