Astronomers light up an artificial star in the sky (photo)

The presented image was obtained inside the Gemini North telescope. It demonstrates the process of creating artificial stars.

The process of creating an artificial star with the Gemini North telescope. Source: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. Chu

Gemini North is part of the Gemini Observatory. It consists of two 8.1-meter telescopes — “northern” and “southern”. The “northern” telescope is located at the top of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea, the “southern” one is in Chile. 

Gemini telescopes are among the most advanced astronomical instruments on Earth. For this, we should thank the adaptive optics system installed on them, which makes it possible to compensate for atmospheric turbulence and improve image quality. Its work can also be seen on the presented photo.

The picture shows the operation of the TOPTICA laser. When the beam it emits reaches a height of about 90 kilometers, it excites the layer of atomic sodium located there, which begins to glow. As a result, an artificial star lights up in the sky.

This star is necessary for turbulence analysis. Comparing the real image of an artificial star with a standard, the computer system calculates the parameters of atmospheric distortions, after which it changes the shape of the secondary mirrors to eliminate them. This allows Gemini North to capture images of stars, planets and galaxies with a resolution that is not inferior to space telescopes.

It may seem that the laser used to create artificial stars is very bright. But this is due to the long exposure of the image. In reality, the Gemini North laser is usually quite dim to the human eye.

Earlier, we talked about how Gemini North looked into the atmosphere of ultra-hot Jupiter.

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