Telescopes from the Ground Up

All of this meant the location of the telescope was almost as important as the mirror size. To avoid these obstacles, astronomers began building these giant telescopes on high mountains, where the air was thin enough that the twinkling effect caused by atmospheric distortion was reduced, and the lights and pollution of cities were far away.

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Get to the root of it

Photography was another factor motivating astronomers to move telescopes to high areas. Photography allowed astronomers to create a fast and accurate record of their observations without drawing everything they saw. It also provided a way for astronomers to observe objects that were too faint to be seen by the human eye — even a human eye using a huge telescope.

No matter how long a person stares at the sky through an eyepiece, he won’t be able to see stars too faint for his vision. But a photograph records all the light it’s exposed to, no matter how faint. Even a light too dim to make a mark at first will eventually make one if the exposure continues for a long enough time.

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