Freezing-out atmospheric blurring with Lucky Imaging

Even from our telescopes on the tops of high mountains, the Earth’s atmosphere blurs observations reducing their clarity. It has been known for many years that if we can run our cameras fast enough, taking hundreds of images a second, then a lot of this blurring can be removed with clever 'photoshoping' of the high speed images. Essentially, the speed with which the images are taken freezes the blurring effect and if we just use the best frames we can get images from the ground that are as sharp as those seen with the Hubble Space Telescope.


Taking images at high speed has not previously been useful for looking at faint objects in the infrared due to high noise levels in the cameras available. This new technology reduces the noise down close to zero, allowing us to look for faint objects very quickly. This has important implications for our adaptive optics program for the GMT, but we need to make sure our cameras all work properly first.


We have bought one of the new high-speed infrared detectors, and we are building a small, cold (-200 degrees C) camera to use on our 2.3 meter telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.


When the camera is ready, we will use it do Lucky Imaging, taking pictures with a resolution similar to the Hubble Space Telescope, while we test the new technology for use in our Adaptive Optics program with GMT.

Relevant publications


Our team of scientists and engineers is working with our partners at the Giant Magellan Telescope to demonstrate a new camera technology that can do “Lucky Imaging” at infrared wavelengths. Not only will this allow us to take some high resolution images, but it will also allow us to test the new technology.