Capturing this incredible star cluster required lasers and a bendable mirror

Popular Science | 7/12/2018 | Staff
megzmegz123 (Posted by) Level 3
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It’s a stellar shot in more ways than one. The picture above shows a star cluster 5,500 lightyears away from Earth, filled with fully-matured celestial bodies and ones still growing up.

This image is false-color, meaning that same expanse, if viewed with a naked eye, would look far different from its current depiction. The colors represent light in infrared wavelengths, which is impossible for humans to see. The snapshot of the star cluster, called RCW 38, is among the sharpest and deepest images ever taken of the area. And it’s not that they caught this particular formation on a good hair (or rather, as good corona) day. A picture like this requires excellent photographic equipment, and this image is no exception.

Koraljka - Muzic - Research - Scientist - University

Koraljka Muzic, a research scientist at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, lead the project. Her team used the Very Large Telescope (Yes. It is Very Large.) in Chile to locate the star cluster. She also used the HAWK-I camera—pronounced hawkeye—and it might be surprising to hear that its only a tad bit more advanced than your DSLR. HAWK-I stands for High Acuity Wide field K-band Imager. It was installed in 2007, and was already pretty great at taking pictures of distant celestial objects. But just recently, scientists installed an upgrade in it called GRAAL. And that upgrade involves lasers.

Even for a powerful camera like HAWK-I, there are limitations to being a ground-based telescope. Namely, the sky. Sure, the atmosphere that surrounds us allows us to breathe, protects us from a lot of solar radiation, and generally plays a huge role in life here on Earth. But MAN is it bad for sky-gazing.

Atmosphere - Images - Muzic - Night - Disturbances

“The atmosphere is turbulent and it blurs our images.” Muzic says. Even on a clear night, atmospheric disturbances can mess with astronomer’s views of stars, blurring and twisting the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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