You’ve probably heard of the Hubble Telescope, which is world-famous for its ability to see billions of light years into space. But you might not know about its next-generation successor. The James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2018, will boast a magnifying power 100 times that of the Hubble Telescope. And it’s technology developed by Abbott scientists that allow this unprecedented level of optical precision.
In 1990, astronomers working on the Hubble Telescope realized that a very small distortion in one of the lens mirrors was causing blurry images. They quickly learned that even a tiny irregularity can distort the optic system and blur its ability to see far into the distance. The same is true of the human eye—small imperfections can have a profound effect on your vision. The surface of the eye is almost never perfectly smooth; so providing an accurate map for ophthalmologists preparing to perform a procedure is essential.
That’s why Abbott scientists set out to develop a tool that delivers more accurate, higher resolution measurement of the visual system. iDesign Dx uses wavefront measurement similar to the laser technology used to check for imperfections in the mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope—imperfections that would prevent a clear view into the outer reaches of space. It also gives doctors a new tool for looking at the human optic system at a microscopic level. They can get a clearer blueprint of a patient’s eye to better understand imperfections known as “refractive errors,” and create a perfectly tailored solution. It’s innovations like these that prove when it comes to vision technology, we’ve truly entered the space age.
Source: http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/10th/vault/timeline.html. Accessed 4/2/2014.