BABAK TAFRESHI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BABAK TAFRESHI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Timelapse footage of a laser guide star at one of the Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, USA. The Milky Way passes overhead during the observatory's work. A laser guide star is used to help mitigate the effects of a turbulent atmosphere on the telescope's resolving power. Turbulence leads to twinkling and blurring of the images of objects in space. The laser is fired through the same part of the atmosphere and its light causes high-altitude sodium atomse to glow brightly, providing a reference 'star'. By analysing how the light of this reference is distorted, the optical system in the telescope can adapt and compensate for the distortion, allowing much sharper images to be obtained.
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