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Camera on Palomar Telescope Captures Neptune Images

Photonics.com
Oct 1999
ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 22 -- An infrared camera on the California Institute of Technology's 200-inch Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory in California is providing detailed images of space unobstructed by atmospheric turbulence. Built by Cornell University researchers, the camera -- the Palomar High Angular Resolution Observer (PHARO) -- receives light from a new adaptive optics system developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Cornell astronomer Don Banfield worked with Cornell and JPL instrument teams this August to produce near-infrared images and spectra of Neptune, the eighth planet from the sun. The distance to Neptune is so great that astronomers are normally unable to detect fine detail using terrestrial telescopes. The new images produced by PHARO show the planet's features to include a massive cloud the size of the European continent as well as numerous smaller clouds. The scientists also generated high-spatial-resolution spectra of Neptune's atmospheric characteristics. This is the only instrument currently available that provides both the high spatial resolution of an adaptive optics system and, at the same time, spectral information, said Banfield.

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