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Telescopes and the equipment that go along with them are very analogous to human eyes and brains. The advantage of telescopes is they have considerably more light gathering area.

Telescopes have to do (only) a few things:

  1. Focus the light from objects onto a detector

  2. Point to various places on the sky``Track'' objects as they drift across the sky


At the end of the last century, the biggest telescopes had mirrors with diameters of around 40 inches (1 meter) and observations were ``visual''. There was a steady increase in mirror size and mechanical sophistication up through the 1950's when the Palomar ``200 inch" (5 meter) telescope went into operation. The Soviets built a 6m mirror telescope that never worked very well. The Palomar reigned as the biggest useful telescope will 1994 when the first of two Keck telescopes was completed which had a 10m (400", 33.3 foot) diameter mirror.

Michael Bolte
Wed Jan 14 21:53:00 PST 1998