We present a new technique for the correction of atmospheric distortion in telescope images. Most of this distortion arises from a random phase variation of the incoming light across the telescope aperture. This variation limits the resolving power of even large telescopes to about one arc second. If the sharpness of the images is defined in a suitable way, this sharpness is maximized only when the phase distortion of the incoming light is zero. We present computer simulations of a simple feedback system in which active optical elements, set to maximize the sharpness, correct most of the atmospheric distortion. Photon statistics set the limiting magnitude of the object for which a practical feedback system can work. Details in a sixth magnitude object smaller than 0.1 sec of arc should be resolvable. The system can be conveniently employed within existing telescopes.
© 1974 Optical Society of America
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