Adaptive Optics Branches Out

A tool built for astronomy finds new life combating space debris and enabling quantum encryption

For astronomers, it’s a magical moment: you’re staring at a monitor, and a blurry image of a cosmological object sharpens up, revealing new details. We call this “closing the loop,” a reference to the adaptive optics loop, a tool that enables telescopes to correct for haziness caused by turbulence in the atmosphere. Adaptive optics essentially untwinkles the stars, canceling out the air between us and space to turn a fuzzy image crisp.

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