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Solving an image problem

Astronomers from the University of Cambridge and Caltech have developed a camera that gives more detailed pictures of stars and nebula than the Hubble Space Telescope, and it does this from the ground.

The camera works by recording the images produced by an adaptive optics front end at high speed (20frame/s or more). Software then checks each frame to pick the sharpest. These are combined to produce the image that astronomers want. The technique is called ‘Lucky Imaging’ because it depends on fluctuations in the atmosphere sorting themselves out. The camera’s performance is due to the use of e2v’s L3Vision ccd imaging sensors, which are sensitive enough to detect single photons when running at high speed. The images were captured using the 200in reflector at Mount Palomar. The images normally produced at Mount Palomar are typically 10 times less detailed than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. With the Lucky Camera, the images are twice as sharp. Pictured is the Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC7543).