Optical astronomy is crucial to our understanding of the universe, but the capabilities of ground-based telescopes are severely limited by the effects of telescope errors and of the atmosphere on the passage of light. Recently, it has become possible to construct inbuilt corrective devices that can compensate for both types of degradations as observations are conducted. For full use of the newly emerged class of 8-meter telescopes, such active corrective capabilities, known as active and adaptive optics, are essential. Some physical limitations in the adaptive optics field can be overcome by artificially created reference stars, called laser guide stars. These new technologies have lately been applied with success to some medium and very large telescopes.