This demonstration walks you through the steps of the adaptive optics technology that is used to remove atmospheric distortions when observing outer space. To view the steps, click the "advance" button.
Step 1: When astronomers want to use a land-based telescope to observe a distant signal in space, they need to contend with noise introduced when the signal passes through the atmosphere.
Step 2: In order to see through the distortion, they shine a laser into the ionosphere, about 90 km above see level, to create an artificial 'reference star'. They use the reference star to measure the distortion that the atmosphere introduces.
Step 3: After observing the atmospheric noise via the 'reference star', a computer changes the shape of a deformable mirror to invert the noise, leaving just the true signal.
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