ESOblog: Twinkle, twinkle little star, but not on our watch
Great blog article from the ESO on adaptive optics – mechanical systems to deform the shape of a mirror to take into account disturbances in the Earth’s atmosphere. The same sort of disturbances that cause stars to “twinkle”.
Astronomers have turned to a method called adaptive optics. Sophisticated, deformable mirrors controlled by computers can correct in real-time for the distortion caused by the turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere, making the images obtained almost as sharp as those taken in space. Adaptive optics allows the corrected optical system to observe finer details of much fainter astronomical objects than is otherwise possible from the ground.