Japan has developed a new optics system capable of upgrading the definition (clarity) of the country's Subaru telescope in Hawaii by ten times.
Designed to minimise the blurring effect of the atmosphere on images captured by a ground-based telescope, the device will help Subaru realise a resolution 3.5 times clearer than that of the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, the National Astronomic Observatory of Japan, which is developing it, said on Tuesday.
The level of resolution is so powerful that it can recognise a table tennis ball some 100 kilometres away, and will enable astronomers to study objects that have so far been unobservable, such as the detailed structure of faint distant galaxies, the observatory's professor Masanori Ie said.
The device will be put into full operation in about a year. According to the observatory's news release on its website, the new adaptive optics system has 188 adjustable elements for smoothing out light to get a sharper image, whereas Subaru's older system had just 36.
Adaptive optics technology removes the twinkle from starlight, seen because light travelling from outer space is blurred by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere, and allows astronomers to see greater detail of the objects they observe, it said.