Chilean Telescope Can Correct for Atmospheric Distorsion

17 February 2002


A new image of Saturn - the Lord of the Rings - shows just how quickly ground-based telescopes are catching up with those in space. The stunning image was taken by a new detector that corrects for distortion introduced by the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, based at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. When observed, Saturn was 1,209 million kilometres (751 million miles) away, with its ring system almost fully displayed. The image is among the sharpest ever obtained from the ground and compares well with some photos obtained from space. Astronomers are excited by the detail seen in the image of Saturn, especially the intricate, banded structure of its atmosphere and the rings. A dark spot is visible at the South Pole at the bottom of the image. One of Saturn's moons, Tethys, is visible as a small point of light below the planet. It was used to guide the telescope and to perform the "refocusing" required to remove atmospheric distortion.


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