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Inst. of Astronomy - Lucky Imaging Group

About Lucky Imaging

Lucky Imaging is a remarkably effective technique for delivering near-diffraction-limited imaging on ground-based telescopes. The basic principle is that the atmospheric turbulence that normally limits the resolution of ground-based observations is a statistical process. If images are taken fast enough to freeze the motion caused by the turbulence we find that a significant number of frames are very sharp indeed where the statistical fluctuations are minimal. By combining these sharp images we can produce a much better one than is normally possible from the ground. We have routinely taken Hubble resolution images (0.15 arcsec resolution) on the Hubble sized telescope is (~2.5 m). More recently we have used the same techniques behind a low order adaptive optics system in order to give even higher resolution on telescopes that are too big to have a significant chance of conventional lucky imaging without adaptive optics assistance.

Lucky imaging is not a new idea. The name "Lucky Imaging" came from Fried (1978) though the first calculations of the Lucky Imaging probabilities were first carried out by Hufnagel in 1966 (see reference pages (click here) for copies of the Hufnagel papers that are otherwise difficult to find) and these principles have been used really quite extensively by the amateur astronomy community who have been able to take very high quality images of bright objects such as Mars and the other planets. There is more information about Amateur Lucky Imaging here..


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