Stunning Time Lapse of Lasers at Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii

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(Screenshot from posting at Open Culture)

Sean Goebel, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Hawaii, has made this beautiful and fascinating time-lapse film of the observatories on Mauna Kea shooting laser beams into the night sky over the Big Island of Hawaii.

The lasers are part of the observatories’ adaptive optics systems, which compensate for distortions in light traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere. “Just as waves of heat coming off pavement blur out the detail of faraway objects,” explains Goebel on his Web site, “winds in the atmosphere blur out fine detail in the stars/galaxies/whatever is being observed. This is the reason that stars twinkle. The laser is used to track this atmospheric turbulence, and one of the mirrors in the telescope bends hundreds of times per second in order to cancel out the blurring.”

Watch the video and read the full text at Open Culture.