Adaptive Optics (AO) is a method for removing the blurring
and distortion of images caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. In essence, it is a way to allow Earth-based
telescopes to see fainter and farther objects as if the telescopes were observing from space. It may be surprising to know that AO is not a new idea; it was first suggested in the 1950s but has only
recently become technologically possible.
To see how much adaptive optics really can improve ground based astronomy,
compare the images below. The image on the left is taken with CFHT's adaptive optics while the image on the right is a simulation of a
good ground-based observation. The object is a 'starburst galaxy' meaning that it underwent a burst of star
formation that appears primarily in the galaxy's sprial arms. This can be seen in the image to the left. To see more
pictures like this try CFHT's Adaptive Optics Bonnette
Best Pictures Gallery.
To learn more about light and adaptive optics, continue on.
Starburst galaxy NGC7469
Image Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.
Left: imaged with AO. Right: without AO