Orion Nebula by Gemini Observatory's adaptive optics (AO) system

A new image Orion Nebula as you’ve never seen it before, just released reveals how Gemini Observatory’s most advanced adaptive optics (AO) system will help astronomers study the universe with an unprecedented level of clarity and detail.    Image © Gemini Observatory/AURA

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The Gemini Observatory with the adaptive optics (AO) system took the photo by removing distortions due to the Earth’s atmosphere, featuring an area on the outskirts of the famous Orion Nebula, illustrates the instrument’s significant advancements over previous-generation AO systems.

“The combination of a constellation of five laser guide stars with multiple deformable mirrors allows us to expand significantly on what has previously been possible using adaptive optics in astronomy,” said Benoit Neichel, who currently leads this adaptive optics program for Gemini. “For years our team has focused on developing this system, and to see this magnificent image, just hinting at its scientific potential, made our nights on the mountain – while most folks were celebrating the New Year’s holiday – the best celebration ever!”

“Adaptive optics allows ground-based telescopes to take full advantage of their large mirrors,” notes Dr. Gary Schmidt, Gemini program director for the U.S. National Science Foundation. “Gemini’s development of MCAO leads the world, and its fidelity even surpasses that of current – and far more expensive – orbiting observatories for imaging the sky.”

Orion Nebula by Gemini Observatory's adaptive optics (AO) system Image © Gemini Observatory/AURA

Detailed views of the Orion Bullet region. In each image pair, left is the Altair 2007 image and right is the new 2012 GeMS image. This close-up view emphasizes the gain realized by MCAO and GeMS compared to normal AO (Altair). With the multiple lasers and deformable mirrors, MCAO allows for compensation of the elongations of star images seen in the Altair images.

source gemini