The BBC have an intersting article along with some pretty pictures taken by Dr Craig Mackay and the Lucky Imaging team using techniques developed upon ideas usd in the QCUIAG group for many years as the basis for planetary capture using webcams.

BBC News Article on Craig Mackay and the lucky imaging project

I was lucky enough to meet Craig at the QCUAIG conference, Q2006 held near Thetford in October 2006. Craig was one of the princple speakers at this conference where I was co-organiser.

He gave us a very full and complex presentation!

Amatuer astronomers have been using webcams with short exposures and large number of frames to capture imagse of the planets by stacking those frames with the best quality. "freezing the seeing"

Dr Craig Mackay has a major advantage over the webcamers - aside from having access to the worlds largest telescopes, he has some E2V sensors which do magical by counting individual photons with no noise.

The principle is quite simple. You take millions of pictures with a very short exposure. The atmosphere is swirling around wrecking the images, but, for a very small number of those millions of pictures the atmosphere will have arrnaged itself so that all the distortion vanishes. Lucky imaging. You just collect together all the good frame, stack them, and you have your image.

Of course, this all relies on good quality, well setup large telescopes to get the lucky photons in the right place at the right time. Dr Craig Mackay has access to serveral great telescopes.

For the rest of us with our little imperfect telescopes, well, we'll just have to wait until the atmosphere arranges itself to distort out any collimation problems etc in our telescopes. Extreme Lucky Imaging. :-)