Telescopes from the Ground Up

Multi-mirror Telescopes

Computers bring telescopes into a new age

Get to the root of it

Just as computers have become a part of daily life, computer technology has become involved in all parts of astronomy — not just adaptive optics and mirror control. In the 1960s, a new kind of detector called the charge-coupled device (CCD) was invented. CCDs act like buckets for light, collecting all the light that falls into them. By the early 1980s, CCDs began replacing photography as the best way to record telescope information. Many older telescopes were adjusted to use computer controls and CCDs. Today this technology is also used in such household items as digital cameras.

In the 1990s, the use of computers to analyze and process information became a normal part of an astronomer’s research. Instead of climbing onto tall platforms in the dark and cold to peer through telescopes at the sky, today’s astronomers do their work in offices, via computers. Thanks to the Internet, astronomers don’t even have to be in the same place as the telescope to gather all the information they need to do their jobs.

In a nutshell...

Multi-mirror telescopes used computer technology to overcome the size limits of huge reflecting telescopes.

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