- A set of powerful lasers has been turned on for the first time in a remote Chilean desert
- The lasers will help ESO’s Very Big Telescope take clearer images of the sky
Right now, what serves as a barrier between ground telescope and the stars is Earth’s atmosphere, creating atmospheric turbulence.
A way to solve this problem is by using an adaptive optics system, which needs a light source from a bright star as a reference.
A laser guide star is an artificial star image used for astronomical imaging. These lasers, along with some mirrors used for adaptive optics, will help ESO’s Very Large Telescope pierce through the blurriness created by the Earth’s atmosphere so it can take crisper images of the night sky.
When turned on, the lasers excite sodium atoms floating in Earth’s upper atmosphere, giving the molecules a fluorescent glow. This process is important because the glowing atoms are used by the telescope to correct wavelength distortion created by the atmosphere.