On the left is a picture of a region globular cluster M92 taken by Hubble. On the right, that same cluster as captured by Arizona's Large Binocular Telescope. That's three times sharper. And we're not even at full capacity yet.
The secret to the LBT's amazing star-gazing is its new adaptive optics system that compensates for atmospheric distortions. A secondary mirror, just .06 inches thin, can be subtly manipulated into different shapes to correct incoming light that's been bent by the atmosphere. The mirror can make adjustments accurate to 10 nanometres every thousandth of a second. With those constant corrections, the LBT's 8.4m mirrors can get a clear shot into the cosmos.
There's better news still. Currently only one of the LBT's two mirrors has been outfitted with adaptive optics. When the other is completed, who knows how far and how clearly we'll see? [Space via PopSci]