Telescopes from the Ground Up

Astronomers found that if they moved the telescopes to far- away mountaintops where the skies were so dark that the only light came from the heavens, photography would reveal faint stars and celestial objects that could not be seen with the human eye. Eventually, all telescopes would use photography. Today’s research telescopes don’t have eyepieces, just cameras and instruments where the eyepieces used to be.

Get to the root of it

The camera wasn’t the only technological development to change telescopes. Astronomers started adding new scientific instruments to their old telescopes. Soon they were building new telescopes with instruments in mind. These instruments were designed to break up the light from stars and planets so astronomers could analyze it further. Before long, the quality of a telescope’s instruments would be as important as its ability to gather light and its resolution.

Telescopes were beginning to resemble the ones astronomers use today, but barriers remained. While there was less atmospheric distortion on the mountaintops than in the cities, there was still enough to cause blurriness. The solution to the blurry images would have to await another leap in technology.

In a nutshell...

Astronomers crafted telescope mirrors from glass instead of metal, making reflecting telescopes more powerful and easier to use. They began relying on photography and instruments to record observations.

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