Public Affairs Office
Air Force Research Laboratory

November 19, 1997


MAUI, HAWAII -- The Ring Nebula (M57), approximately one-half eight-year in diameter (or 2.95 trillion miles wide) and 1,500 light years away, is the first image captured by the Department of Defense's largest telescope, a 4-meter-class telescope completed here in July. This first image, also known as "first light", was recorded recently with a 15-second exposure, using an ST-8 Charge Couple Device camera from Santa Barbara (Calif.) Instrument Group. Telescope officials with the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory expect image quality will improve after the primary mirror figure control is calibrated, enhanced sensors are installed, and the telescope completes additional testing. The telescope, which is part of a $150 million Advanced Electro-Optical System, took two years to construct. Able to view a baseball-sized object 500 miles in space, the telescope will view and track satellites passing overhead.

Image, 376K

Additional Technical Information: The ST-8 camera was mounted on the trunnion position of the 3.67-meter telescope (primary/secondary/tertiary mirror path), with the f/200-long secon dary. The nebula was acquired and sidereal tracked at a telescope elevation of about 30 degrees. Field of view was 2.8 X 4.0 arc minutes. The two stars inside the nebula appear to be magnitude 15 and 16; some of the fainter stars appear to be magnitude 18+.

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