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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the largest visible-light and infrared telescopes in operation today
  • Discuss the factors relevant to choosing an appropriate telescope site
  • Define the technique of adaptive optics and describe the effects of the atmosphere on astronomical observations

Since Newton’s time, when the sizes of the mirrors in telescopes were measured in inches, reflecting telescopes have grown ever larger. In 1948, US astronomers built a telescope with a 5-meter (200-inch) diameter mirror on Palomar Mountain in Southern California. It remained the largest visible-light telescope in the world for several decades. The giants of today, however, have primary mirrors (the largest mirrors in the telescope) that are 8- to 10-meters in diameter, and larger ones are being built ( [link] ).

Large telescope mirror.

Photograph of one of the 8-meter concave primary mirrors of the European Space Agency’s Very Large Telescope array in Chile.
This image shows one of the primary mirrors of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, named Yepun, just after it was recoated with aluminum. The mirror is a little over 8 meters in diameter. (credit: ESO/G. Huedepohl)

Modern visible-light and infrared telescopes

The decades starting in 1990 saw telescope building around the globe grow at an unprecedented rate. (See [link] , which also includes websites for each telescope in case you want to visit or learn more about them.) Technological advancements had finally made it possible to build telescopes significantly larger than the 5-meter telescope at Palomar at a reasonable cost. New technologies have also been designed to work well in the infrared, and not just visible, wavelengths.

Large Single-Dish Visible-Light and Infrared Telescopes
Aperture (m) Telescope Name Location Status Website
39 European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) Cerro Armazonas, Chile First light 2025 (estimated) www.eso.org/sci/facilities/eelt
30 Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) Mauna Kea, HI First light 2025 (estimated) www.tmt.org
24.5 Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Las Campanas Observatory, Chile First light 2025 (estimated) www.gmto.org
11.1 × 9.9 Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) Sutherland, South Africa 2005 www.salt.ac.za
10.4 Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) La Palma, Canary Islands First light 2007 http://www.gtc.iac.es
10.0 Keck I and II (two telescopes) Mauna Kea, HI Completed 1993–96 www.keckobservatory.org
9.1 Hobby–Eberly Telescope (HET) Mount Locke, TX Completed 1997 www.as.utexas.edu/mcdonald/het
8.4 Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) (two telescopes) Mount Graham, AZ First light 2004 www.lbto.org
8.4 Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) The Cerro Pachón, Chile First light 2021 www.lsst.org
8.3 Subaru Telescope Mauna Kea, HI First light 1998 www.naoj.org
8.2 Very Large Telescope (VLT) Cerro Paranal, Chile All four telescopes completed 2000 www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/paranal
8.1 Gemini North and Gemini South Mauna Kea, HI (North) and Cerro Pachón, Chile (South) First light 1999 (North), First light 2000 (South) www.gemini.edu
6.5 Magellan Telescopes (two telescopes: Baade and Landon Clay) Las Campanas, Chile First light 2000 and 2002 obs.carnegiescience.edu/Magellan
6.5 Multi-Mirror Telescope (MMT) Mount Hopkins, AZ Completed 1979 www.mmto.org
6.0 Big Telescope Altazimuth (BTA-6) Mount Pastukhov, Russia Completed 1976 w0.sao.ru/Doc-en/Telescopes/bta/descrip.html
5.1 Hale Telescope Mount Palomar, CA Completed 1948 www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/about/telescopes/hale.html

Questions & Answers

why the dark side of moon never face us? because moon dont rotate? why tho
Rishabh Reply
im in 8th standard and my school teach us nothing about astronomy but i want to be an astronomer so i study from youtube and apps like this but sometimes i get language problems
The Moon does actually rotate. It takes 27 days for the Moon to make a full rotation. Because it takes it so long and the Earth is rotating around the sun, it seems like the Moon is pretty much standing still. That's called "synchronous rotation".
I ment to say "The Earth is orbiting around the sun"
Tidal Locked.....
thats cool
ya gives you a look at how the moon orbits around us too and a perspective of how fast we are going. also gives the moon phases for the year! enjoy 😁
what phases of the moon occurs when spring tide?
Florence Reply
the moon has a 28 day cycle. you can download a moon calander or follow the pattern and make your own calendar. 1st full moon of the year 21/22nd Jan, its also a blood moon and a wolf moon. if this info helps at all. 😊
How to determine the velocity of light?
using this formula c=1/√absolute permeability×absolute permittivity of free space i.e. c=1/√8.854×10^-12×4π×10^-7~3×10^8ms^-1
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
should there be only 1 universe?
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
if your already interested/observing, your already an astronomer ! The more you look and read the more you'll learn.
I want to become a scientist but my knowledge is very low. How I can improve my knowledge?
any form of science courses, there's free crash course channel on you tube. I've learned alot from this channel. covers most topics, science: biology chemistry physics, astronomy, ranges to anatomy, history and many many more. it's a never ending subject!
suggest a channel as a example
CrashCourse is the name of the channel and there is a picture of an apple. look through their play lists. They will have other related channels they follow also.
thank you so much
your very welcome
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
nice to meet u ken
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
than you can go free of cost
Yes, That's right!
Oh! Free of cost?
hello yamini nice to meet you
wow from NASA ur so lucky
hello yamini nice to meet you
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
pls elaborate
the clear defination.I know that.
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
I agree
hmm even I agree
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
which could have existed life on it
adam i want to ask a question
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
hello, anyone home?
guys listen we cannot ever find aliens because our technology is not that great.we don't know whether they exist or no because our universe is very large . Just for an example;even if we spot out aliens we cannot reach there because lot of time must have been passed and before us reaching there
what if their species or existence might get vanished our have been extinct!! getting my point
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
nice to meet you
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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