Sharpening Stellar Images

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Science  05 May 1978:
Vol. 200, Issue 4341, pp. 489-494
DOI: 10.1126/science.200.4341.489


Atmospherically induced phase perturbations have for years limited the resolution of large optical astronomical telescopes. A prototype telescope system with six movable elements has successfully corrected these phase perturbations. This use of real-time image sharpening has restored stellar images to the diffraction limit (in one dimension) for a 30-centimeter telescope. The double-star image presented indicates that the bulk of the atmospherically induced wave-front phase change occurred within 2 kilometers of the telescope. This implies that, at least for conditions similar to those of our measurement, real-time correction can be accomplished simultaneously for a region at least several arc seconds in angular size. With the present apparatus the technique should be practical for objects as dim as fifth magnitude, and with improvements the technique holds the promise of active image restoration for objects as dim as ninth magnitude.

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