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Friday, January 18, 2008
Foto Friday: Eye on the Sky
In my prints of this, the telescope glows with an unearthly light. It took a lot of fiddling to even begin to reproduce it in this image. I think it had something to do with the polarization and reflection off the white paint.
This was the largest telescope in the world for something like 50 years. There's a Russian telescope that's a meter larger. According to Wikipedia its first light was in 1975, but even in the late '80s it was having grave difficulties, and was not really working.
Nowadays, of course, 5m is not considered any great shakes. The largest single mirrors are the (twin!) 8.4m mirrors of the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. (See here for a gripping 2003 tale of how the first mirror was moved up the mountain.)
If you use many small mirrors you can make telescopes much larger, of course. The proposed names for these telescopes are getting larger and sillier too, with the European Extremely Large Telescope (42m), the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (100m), and the Jaw-Droppingly Mind-Crushingly Huge Telescope (1 gagjillion m). I might've made that last one up. (I think the OWLT has in favor of the more modest EELT.)
Speaking of gripping tales, the story of the building of the Hale Telescope is told in The Perfect Machine, by Ronald Florence. This great book turns glass pouring into high drama.
Oh, yeah: Palomar linky.