Astronomy - 400 Years of the Telescope

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  • Topic: Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, Heliocentrism
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  • Published : November 18, 2010
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Name: Laura Meng
SID: 22430663
GSI: Johnathan Wright
Section #112
Laboratory 0: “400 Years of the Telescope”

The PBS documentary outlines our progressive journey in the field of astronomy and the resulted revolutionary discoveries from the continually improving technologies. The history of telescopes first began in the sixteen hundreds, when Hale’s invention of refracting telescopes drastically changed people’s view of the Universe at the time, for the view from the telescope revealed the Universe as dynamic, as opposed to static. Later on, Galileo Galilei improved on these telescopes and constructed several with increasing magnifying powers. With his own telescope, Galileo not only viewed our moon, but also observed those of Jupiter, triggering the development of modern science. Furthermore, with the help of his telescope, Galileo also discovered that Venus goes through a whole cycle of phases, providing Nicholas Copernicus’ heliocentric theory with an instrumental proof, and challenging the traditional believes that Earth is the center of the Universe and that all other planets orbit around it. Although it led Galileo to great discoveries, his telescope experienced a defection in its lenses, called the chromatic aberration. Fortunately, Isaac Newton successfully solved this problem by reflecting the light onto a smaller and flatter mirror, which then brings the focus point outside the telescope, further improving the quality of the images being studied.

The ability to collect starlight is another useful feature of telescopes, for studying light from a star enhance astronomers’ understandings of our Universe. By spreading starlight through a glass prism, astronomers are able to obtain the star’s spectrum, which provides them information about the star’s temperature, pressure, rotation speed and composition. However, a more advanced study of stars was limited by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. This problem is later solved by the use of adaptive...
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