Washington: After more than a decade in development, a new system, now in regular use at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, is streaming ultrasharp data to scientists around the world-providing a new level of detail in their studies of the universe.
The images show that the scientific discovery power of GeMS (derived from the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System), which uses a potent combination of multiple lasers and deformable mirrors to remove atmospheric distortions (blurriness) from ground-based images.
Unlike previous AO systems, GeMS uses a technique called "multi-conjugate adaptive optics" (MCAO), which not only captures more of the sky in a single shot (between 10 and 20 times more area of sky imaged in each "picture") but also forms razor-sharp images uniformly across the entire field, from top-to-bottom and edge-to-edge.
This makes Gemini`s 8-meter mirror 10 to 20 times more efficient, giving astronomers the option to either expose deeper, or explore the universe more effectively with a wider range of filters, which will allow them to pick out subtle yet important structural details never seen before.
"Each image tells a story about the scientific potential of GeMS," Benoit Neichel who led the GeMS commissioning effort in Chile, said.
According to Neichel, the targets were selected to demonstrate the instrument`s diverse "discovery space" while producing striking images that would make astronomers say, "I need that!"
The first data coming from GeMS are already making waves among astronomers across the international Gemini partnership.
The GeMS system uses a constellation of five laser guide stars and multiple deformable mirrors to remove atmospheric distortions to starlight in an innovative and revolutionary way.
The laser, a solid-state sodium (yellow/orange) laser, was developed with significant supplemental funding through the US National Science Foundation and from the entire Gemini partnership.