Telescopes from the Ground Up

They would soon regret the decision. By 1877, the metal mirrors were so tarnished that they needed to be polished. Unfortunately, the mirrors would have to be sent all the way to their home factory in Ireland before that could happen. The observatory director taught himself how to polish the mirrors and tried to do the work, but he couldn’t conduct the proper tests to make sure the surfaces were polished correctly. The mirrors never worked well again.

The Melbourne reflector lasted only 15 years. Many other telescopes made before that time still work today. The failure marked a turning point in the development of the telescope. Melbourne’s telescope would be the last large reflecting telescope built with a metal mirror. Its failure was so dramatic that for about 30 years afterward, astronomers avoided building large reflecting telescopes.

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Early Reflectors