Seeing Better: In 400 Years, Telescopes Advance from Rooftops to Mountains to Orbit

Science News, May 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Seeing Better: In 400 Years, Telescopes Advance from Rooftops to Mountains to Orbit


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1608

Invention of the telescope. Claimed by Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey, although others (including Jacob Metius and Zacharias Janssen) are also sometimes credited.

1609

Galileo improves the telescope anal begins using it for astronomy, starting with lunar observations.

1611

German astronomer Johannes Kepler designs a new telescope using convex lenses.

1616

A concave reflecting telescope is built by Niccolo Zucchi, an Italian Jesuit and physicist.

1655

Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens discovers Saturn's rings and its moon Titan using a Keplerian telescope with an 11-foot focal length.

1663

James Gregory, a Scottish mathematician, describes a new type of reflecting telescope.

1668

Isaac Newton invents a small but powerful reflecting telescope using mirrors.

1672

Laurent Cassegrain, a French priest, invents a reflecting telescope based on Gregory's principles.

1675

King Charles II commissions the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England.

1781

Astronomer William Herschel uses a reflecting telescope to discover the planet Uranus; he later builds more powerful telescopes with which he discovers several moons of Uranus. Herschel's largest telescope has a focal length of 40 feet.

1839

Harvard College Observatory is established in Cambridge, Mass.

1845

In Ireland, William Parsons builds the Leviathan, a reflecting telescope with a mirror that is 6 feet in diameter. He uses it to discover the spiral structure of the nebula M51.

1908

The Hale reflecting telescope is constructed atop Mount Wilson in California. At that time, it was the world's largest telescope.

1917

The 100-inch Hooker reflecting telescope is completed at Mount Wilson. It ranks as the world's largest telescope for the next 30 years.

1937

Grote Reber, an American radio engineer, builds the first telescope designed to observe the radio region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

1946

British astronomer Martin Ryle builds an interferometer for making radio observations of space. …

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