Heidi Hammel, Imke de Pater, W. M. Keck Observatory
The power of adaptive optics
At left, Keck II images of Uranus with the Adaptive Optics system turned off are blurry due to the scintillation of the Earth's atmosphere. With the system turned on, however, dozens of new cloud features pop into view in the image on the right, taken through an infrared filter sensitive to wavelengths of about 1.6 microns.
Keck II is outfitted with an Adaptive Optics system that dynamically changes the shape of the telescope's main mirror in order to reduce the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere. The images that can be produced with the Adaptive Optics system are stunning for their sharpness and clarity.
Original image data dated on or about July 12, 2004