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Warming up spiders on the Very Large Telescope

25 Jan 2019, 11:00 UTC
Warming up spiders on the Very Large Telescope ESO/G.Hüdepohl (atacamaphoto.com)

After years of planning, in 2014 ESO’s Very Large Telescope welcomed the planet-hunting SPHERE instrument. Ever since, SPHERE has enabled scientists to carry out ground-breaking astronomical research, including investigating how planetary systems are formed. But SPHERE experienced some teething problems from the very beginning. When experiencing little or no wind, the images it produced were of a much poorer quality than when the wind blew with more force. At first, this paradox baffled engineers, but they quickly donned their detective hats to figure out what exactly was going on. ESO’s Markus Kasper tells us how he worked as part of a team of experts to understand and solve this problem.

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