Spectacular Neptune Photo Shows Hubble Space Telescope Has a New Rival

(From NBC News)

A new way to snap photos of celestial objects from Earth produces images that are almost as clear as those taken from space. P. Weilbacher / ESO
Scientists have upgraded one of Earth’s most powerful telescopes to help it compensate for the atmospheric light-scattering that can make photos taken by ground-based telescopes appear blurry — and stunning new images of star clusters and Neptune show just how sharp such photos can now be.

Before the upgrade, photos of Neptune taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama Desert showed the planet as a fuzzy blue spot. In the new photo, it appears as a blue disk with subtle color shadings and sharply defined edges. You can even see evidence of cloud activity on the planet’s shiny surface.

The photos are so crisp that they rival those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

“I have used the Hubble telescope on Neptune numerous times, and these images are every bit as sharp,” astronomer Mark Showalter, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, told NBC News MACH in an email. “If they’ve turned the VLT into a second Hubble, then we can all do more cutting-edge astronomy.”

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