How do you make a huge telescope even more powerful? Lasers, of course

No, this observatory is not starting a war with a distant alien race. Instead, it's exciting the atoms in the upper atmosphere to create an artificial star 56 miles above Earth. And this, of course, will help it take pictures of the cosmos.

The European Southern Observatory uses this method, called the Laser Guide Star, to provide a reference for the four mirror-based telescopes that make up the Very Large Telescope array.

It's all very cool and futuristic, although part of me does wish that the laser was being used to blast some baddie's spaceship out of the sky. Maybe someday!

European Southern Observatory, via Gizmodo

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