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Sunlight in the Dark
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Sunlight in the Dark

June 30, 2010
Sunlight in the Dark The mirror at center right doesn't look like an ironing board, but that's its basic role in a new high-order adaptive optics system that cancels most of the atmosphere's blurring. An irony of modern solar observing is "photon starvation." Observing small areas at high resolution, and in narrow spectral bands, reduces the amount of light arriving at the detector. This requires turning down interior lights that would introduce noise into the data. Shown here is the high-order adaptive optics (AO) setup at the Dunn Solar Telescope of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Solar Observatory at Sunspot, N.M. The mirror at right in this picture deforms to compensate for blurring caused by Earth's atmosphere. Other components include beamsplitters that direct light to different parts of the AO system and to the instruments. Success with this project has paved the way for NSO to design and propose the NSF-funded 4-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, the world's largest optical solar telescope. (Date of Image: unknown)


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