With lucky imaging, those optimum exposures least affected by the atmosphere (typically around 10%) are chosen and combined into a single image by shifting and adding the short exposures, yielding much higher angular resolution than would be possible with a single, longer exposure which includes all the frames.
Images taken with ground-based telescopes are subject to the blurring effect of atmospheric turbulence (seen to the eye as the stars twinkling). Many astronomical imaging programs require higher resolution than is possible without some correction of the images. Lucky imaging is one of several methods used to remove atmospheric blurring. Used at a 1% selection or less, lucky imaging can reach the diffraction limit of even 2.5 m aperture telescopes, a resolution improvement factor of at least five over standard imaging systems.
Typical short-exposure image of this binary star from the same dataset, but without using any speckle processing. The effect of the Earth's atmosphere is to break the image of each star up into speckles.
The sequence of images below shows how lucky imaging works. From a series of 50,000 images taken at a speed of almost 40 images per second, five different long exposure images have been created. Additionally, a single exposure with very low image quality and another single exposure with very high image quality are shown at the beginning of the demo sequence. The astronomical target shown has the 2MASS ID J03323578+2843554. North is up and East on the left.