Landlocked Telescope Gives Hubble an Inferiority Complex

The incredibly speedy-but-earthbound Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) recently used real-time adaptive optics to cancel out the negative effects of viewing celestial bodies through an atmosphere and has bested Hubble in terms of accuracy.

The feat was accomplished during a series of initial tests in May and June, and should be applied to meatier experiments fairly soon.

Just how fast are these "adaptive optics?" Pretty fast, according to a release from the University of Arizona:

A special sensor detects atmospheric distortions in real time and controls the mirror to adjust its position to compensate, effectively canceling out the blurring. The mirror can make adjustments every one-thousandth of a second, with accuracy to better than ten nanometers.

The news is significant because the technique should save some serious dough going forward given the fact that it need not be shot into the sky using expensive rockets to do its duty. [University of Arizona via Slashdot]