Scientists have revealed that they are using the world's first robotic laser adaptive optics system to explore thousands of exoplanet systems (planets around other stars) at resolutions approaching those of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Laser adaptive optics systems, Robo-AO, used by terrestrial telescopes to remove the image-blurring effects of Earth's turbulent atmosphere, thereby capturing much sharper images than are otherwise possible from the ground.
Christoph Baranec of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Institute for Astronomy said that are using Robo-AO's extreme efficiency to survey in exquisite detail all of the candidate exoplanet host stars that have been discovered by NASA's Kepler mission.
The first Robo-AO survey, covering 715 Kepler candidate exoplanet hosts, is the single largest scientific adaptive optics survey ever. That record won't stand for very long, as the Robo-AO team is extending the survey to image each and every of the 4,000 Kepler candidate exoplanet hosts, and is ready to observe exoplanet hosts from Kepler's new K2 mission as they are discovered.
The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.