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Lecture 3


Hubble Space Telescope

Galileos Telescope
The telescope was
invented in Holland in
the early 17th century.
Hearing of the
invention (but without
having seen one),
Galileo built a
telescope for himself
in 1609 and aimed it
at the sky.
Weblink: Galileoscope


Refraction is the
bending of a beam
of light as it passes
from one
medium (e.g. air)
into another (e.g.

A refracting
telescope uses a
lens to gather and
concentrate a
beam of light.

Magnifying glass focuses sunlight

The prime-focus
images produced
by large telescopes
are actually quite
Often, the image is
magnified with a

Newtons Telescope
In late 1668 Isaac
Newton built his
reflecting telescope

Newtonian Telescope

A reflecting
telescope uses a
curved mirror to
focus the incoming

Other Designs

Schmidt-Cassegrain Telesco
The SchmidtCassegrain combines
a Cassegrain
reflector's optical
path with a Schmidt
corrector plate to
make a compact
instrument that uses
simple spherical

Spherical Aberration
For small telescopes
using spherical mirrors
with focal ratios
shorter than f/10, light
from a distant point
source (such as a star)
is not all focused at
the same point.
Particularly, light
striking the inner part
of the mirror focuses
farther from the mirror
than light striking the
outer part.

Schmidt Corrector Plate

A Schmidt
corrector plate is
an aspheric lens
which is designed
to correct the
aberration in the
spherical primary
mirror it is
combined with.

Compact Telescope

8.5 Schmidt Cassegrain vs 4.5 Newtonian

NUS Teaching Observatory

The observatory
houses The largestaperture telescope
in Singapore, with
a primary mirror of
17.5 inch.

CDK Telescope

The CDK consists of three components: an

ellipsoidal primary mirror, a spherical
secondary mirror and a lens group.

Refractors vs Reflectors

As the sizes of
telescopes have
increased steadily
over the years, a
number of
important factors
have tended to
favor reflectors
over refractors:

The lens tends to

focus red and blue
light differently
Rainbow Formation

Chromatic Aberration

A lens bends blue light more than it bends red light.

Other Factors
2. As light passes through a lens,
some of it is absorbed by the glass.
3. A large lens can be supported only
around its edge. A mirror can be
supported over its entire back
4. A lens has two surfaces that must
be accurately machined and
polished, but a mirror has only one.

Largest Refractor
The largest
refractor ever built
is at the Yerkes
Installed in 1897 at
the Yerkes
Observatory, it is
still in used today.
It has a lens
diameter of just
over 1 m (40

Largest Reflectors
All large modern telescopes use
Many recently constructed reflecting
telescopes have mirror diameters in
the 10-m range, and still larger
instruments are on the way.

Large Binocular Telescope

LBT is located in
Using two 8.4 m wide
mirrors, it can give
the same light
gathering ability as a
11.8 m wide single
circular telescope.
An interferometric
mode will be
available at the near

Gran Telescopio Canarias

GTC is a 10.4 m
reflecting telescope
in the Canary
Islands of Spain.
It is the worlds
largest singleaperture optical

Segmented Mirror
GTCs primary mirror
has a total of 36
A segmented mirror
is an array of
smaller mirrors
designed to act as
segments of a single
large curved mirror.

Large Telescopes
The development of modern
astronomical telescopes over the
years has seen a steady increase in
Large telescopes can gather and
focus more radiation, allowing
astronomers to study fainter objects
and to obtain more detailed
information about bright ones.

Great Collecting Area

A larger telescope has a greater
collecting area.
The observed brightness of an
astronomical object is directly
proportional to the area of our
telescopes mirror and therefore to
the square of the mirror diameter.

Faint Detail

Image (b) was

taken with a
telescope twice
the size of that
used to make (a).
Faint detail can
be seen as the
diameter of the
telescope mirror

More Detail
Large telescopes
have fine angular
The finer the
angular resolution,
the better we can
distinguish objects,
and the more detail
we can see.

One important factor
that limits a
telescope resolution
is diffraction.
When a parallel
beam of light enters
a telescope, the rays
spread out slightly,
making it impossible
to focus the beam to
a sharp point.
Arny & Schneider, FIGURE 4.8(A)


For light of any given wavelength, large

telescopes produce less diffraction than
small ones.

Angular Resolution
For a circular mirror,
wavelength ( m)
angular resolution (arcsec) 0.25
mirror diameter (m)

where 1 m = 10-6 m.
Angular resolution refers to the ability of
a telescope to form distinct, separate
images of objects separated by a small
angle in the sky. The finer the resolution,
the better we can distinguish the objects.

The binary star IW Tau is revealed through adaptive optics. The stars have a
0.3 arc second separation.

Angular resolution > 0.3

Angular resolution 0.3

Atmospheric Turbulence
As we observe a star,
atmospheric turbulence
produces continual
small changes in the
optical properties of
the air between the
star and our telescope.
As a result, the stellar
image dances around
on our detector. This
continual deflection is
the cause of the wellknown twinkling of

Twinkling of Stars
Stars tend to twinkle,
and planets do not.
Stars, although they
may be millions of
miles in diameter, are
very far away. They
appear as point sources
even when viewed by
The planets in our solar
system, much smaller
than stars, are closer
and can be resolved as
disks with a little bit of

Seeing Disk
No ground-based
optical telescope built
before 1990 can
resolve astronomical
objects to much
better than 1.
Consider taking a
photograph of a star.
After a few minutes of
exposure, the image
of the star has been
smeared out over a
seeing disk 1 or so in

Mountaintop Telescopes
To achieve the best
possible observing
Telescopes are
sited on
mountaintops (to
get above as much
of the atmosphere
as possible).



Hubble Space Telescope

The 2.4-m mirror in
the HST has a
diffraction limit of
only 0.05.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

The deepest image of the universe ever taken in visible light.

Adaptive Optics

Very Large Telescope (VLT)

Constant imaging of
high-altitude atoms
excited by the laser
which appear like an
artificial starallow
astronomers to
instantly measure
atmospheric blurring.
This information is fed
back to a VLT telescope
mirror which is then
slightly deformed to
minimize this blurring.

Radio Telescopes

Electromagnetic Radiation

Fix, FIGURE 6.5

Radio Waves
Visible light is a particular type of
electromagnetic radiation to which our
human eyes happen to be sensitive.
Modern instruments can also detect many
forms of invisible electromagnetic
radiation. Radio waves fall into this
The color of a beam of light is determined
by its wavelength. Radiation outside the
visible spectrum is invisible to human eyes.
To the long-wavelength side of visible light
lie radio radiation.

Green Bank Telescope (GBT)

GBT is the worlds
largest fully
steerable radio
The surface area of
the GBT is a 100 by
110 meter active

Conceptually, the
operation of a radio
telescope is similar to
the operation of an
optical reflector with
the detecting
instruments places at
the prime focus.
Radio telescopes must
be built large partly
because cosmic radio
sources are extremely

Arecibo Observatory
The 305 m radio
telescope here is the
worlds largest
telescope, ever.
The main collecting
dish is constructed
inside the depression
left by a karst
YouTube: James Bond

Poor Angular Resolution

Because of diffraction, the angular
resolution of radio telescopes is generally
quite poor.
The long wavelengths of radio waves
impose a corresponding crudeness in
angular resolution.
In some circumstances, radio
astronomers can overcome this limitation
with a technique known as interferometry.

In interferometry,
two or more radio
telescopes are used
in tandem to observe
the same object.
Interferometry works
by analyzing how the
signals interfere with
each other when
added together.

Effective Diameter
An interferometer is, in essence, a
substitute for a single huge dish. As
far as resolving power is concerned,
the effective diameter of an
interferometer is the distance
between its outermost dishes.
The longer the baseline of the
interferometer, the better is the
resolution attainable.

Very Large Array (VLA)

The observatory
consists of 27
antennas, each of
which has a dish
diameter of 25 m.

Angular Resolution
The antennas can be physically
relocated to a number of prepared
positions, with a maximum baseline
of 36 km.
The smallest angular resolution that
can be reached is about 0.05 at a
wavelength of 7 mm.

Very Long Baseline

Astronomers have
created radio
spanning great
distances, first
across North
America and later

Space VLBI
Radio astronomers
have successfully used
an antenna in orbit,
together with several
antennae on the
ground, to construct
an even longer
Proposals exist to
place interferometers
entirely in Earth orbit
and even on the Moon.

Other Telescopes
Since the 1970s there has been a virtual
explosion of observational techniques
spanning the rest of the electromagnetic
Because of the transmission characteristics of
Earths atmosphere, astronomers must study
practically all regions of the electromagnetic
spectrum from space. The rise of these other
astronomies has therefore been closely tied
to the development of the space program.

Arny & Schneider, FIGURE 3.20

Space Telescopes
HST (Near UV, Visible, Near IR)

James Webb (Successor to HST and Spitzer)

Other Astronomies

Extrasolar Planet (Infrared)

Solar Flare (Ultraviolet)