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The Magic of Glass - Part 1

The Magic of Glass
Part - 1

All people who adore science have at some point looked up at the stars and wondered if the heavens could ever be brought to earth. People, from time immemorial have always thought of doing something like this, observing the heavens. In this series, we shall look at the different kind of telescopes and where to get them. Let’s focus on the Technology in the first part of the series.

The telescope was invented by a Dutch spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey (it is still unclear as to who the inventor of the telescope is, since there are many other contenders for the title but most reliable sources point to him.), it’s a common mistake to credit the invention of the telescope to Galileo, although he was the first person ever to observe the heavens, with a telescope, he did not invent it. The first application of the telescope was not the heavens as most had expected, however it was in the battlefield to observe enemy troop movements. As soon as Galileo heard the news, he was fascinated, and decided to fashion a telescope, for himself .The one he crafted was, by our standards” quite shabby”. It was no where near the precision that we have achieved today with our technology and advances in optics.

hans lippershey

Hans Lippershey

But this simple telescope was enough for Galileo to muster up enough support for the Copernican theory for the solar system, when he observed that Jupiter had encircling moons ,  it was clear that the earth was  not the center of the universe. What became of Galileo and his observations is a completely different story, that requires much to be said, but the telescope could no longer be left out as it had by now caught the eye of many a curious people. The real benefit of the telescope was that it could be used and modified like any other instrument, and quickly became the object of desire for anyone who wanted to study the heavens, so scientists and he general populace alike became quite fond of this instrument.  But along with the evolution of science during the next 400 years the telescope also underwent some major changes, these changes in the basic design are generally accepted now as a different variants of the “Classical Telescope”.



We know that Newton made the all important modification of using mirrors instead of just lenses, to which he is still credited with the “Newtonian Reflector” a very popular telescope type today. We also have the Schmidt-Cassegrain, or Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes  which have the rare distinction of supposedly having inspired  the maximum number of people to explore  amateur astronomy owing to its portability and aperture and being cheaper than the refractors.

But the issue of availability of this instrument is quite another story, since the development of the telescope the production and manufacturing of the telescope has been in the hands of a limited few individuals and the market worth of these individuals is always determined by the quality of the Telescope they make, let me at this juncture make it explicitly clear that the perfect telescope does not exist. It all depends on the usage of that telescope for that particular observing session or the kind of heavenly bodies the observer finds most interesting..

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