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Gemini Observatory's New GeMS Instrument Reveals Stunning Images of the Universe

First Posted: Jul 03, 2013 01:16 PM EDT
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A new instrument may allow astronomers to receive a better look at our universe. Researchers have unveiled Gemini Observatory's revolutionary new adaptive optics system, called GeMS, which can remove atmospheric distortions to a new level.

The new instrument uses a potent combination of multiple lasers and deformable mirrors to remove atmospheric distortions from ground-based images. The laser is a solid-state sodium laser, which makes it a yellow-orange color. Unlike previous AO systems, GeMS uses a technique called "multi-conjugate adaptive optics." This method not only captures more of the sky in a single shot, but also forms razor-sharp images uniformly across the entire field. This gives astronomers the option to either expose deeper, or to explore the universe more efficiently with a wider range of filters.

Currently, the astronomers are using GeMS to study the environment in and around star clusters. Already, spectacular images of these regions have been produced, revealing more information than ever about star clusters, such as RMC 136. Already, the first images are making waves among astronomers across the international Gemini partnership.

"Each image tells a story about the scientific potential of GeMS," said Benoit Neichel, who led the GeMS commissioning effort in Chile, in a news release.

The images are, indeed, spectacular. They show clear pictures of stars and galaxies, revealing more about far-off worlds than ever before.

"GeMS sets the new cool in adaptive optics," said Tim Davidge, an astronomer at Canada's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, in a news release. "It opens up all sorts of exciting science possibilities for Gemini, while also demonstrating technology that is essential for the next generation of ground-based mega-telescopes. With GeMS we are entering a radically new, and awesome, era for ground-based optical astronomy."

The new instrument can be used for studies that require extreme resolution to see individual stars millions of light-years away. In addition, it could be used to examine large-scale backgrounds of planetary systems.

Want to see all of the new images for yourself? You can check them out here.

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