The telescope started out as a simple tool for astronomers of the past to get a closer glimpse of the stars and the heavens. The idea was simple – capture light from the skies with our eyes. But as technology and science advanced, people realized there were different types of light coming from outer space, most of it can’t be seen. Telescopes then evolved to capture X-rays, UV light, infrared light, radio waves, and other low and high energy lights. By looking at images from these different telescopes side by side, scientists are able to learn more about stars, nebulas, and black holes by the type of light they spit out.
Manipulating and Capturing Waves
Optical telescopes use lenses or mirrors or both to create an image. These refractive and reflective surfaces enlarge an object and make it brighter, which works out quite well if you’re sitting in the dark trying to look at stars. Radio telescopes collect radio waves, so they have a big satellite dish pointed at the sky. By having several dishes, the collected waves can be compiled into an image.
The most difficult type of wave to capture is the X-ray. While mirrors are used, these aren’t the kinds you find in bathrooms. X-ray telescope mirrors are made from heavy metals, since this type of material can actually reflect these high energy waves. There are also telescopes that capture gamma rays. Since both gamma and X-rays hang out in space (more on this below), these telescopes usually orbit the Earth on satellite.
Our atmosphere deflects a lot of harmful rays, which is why life is able to survive here. Unfortunately, this feature of our atmosphere also makes it difficult for most types of light to get down to the surface. Radio waves and visible light are able to reach the ground, but X-rays and gamma rays are deflected. It’s also why sending a telescope outside the atmosphere and having it hang out in space (Hubble telescope) is a great way to gather information about the universe and provide scientists with insights into objects that are thousands of light years away.
A Pricey Tool
Not all telescopes are expensive, but the ones that are can only be maintained by a country. Your run of the mill telescope ranges from about $70 to $200 dollars. These are fun to have aorund the house. More expensive ones can cost up to several thousand dollars. And of course, the Hubble telescope cost millions, if not billions, of dollars. This includes launching it and sending groups of astronauts up into space to maintain and fix it. NASA estimates that the Hubble still has another 10-20 years left before it is retired.
Affordable and Goes With Your Outfit
We’ve managed to make a fashionable telescope. Unfortunately, you can’t see much with it, but it does make a great gift for stargazers. Purchase it for yourself or for a friend. Astronomers, navigators, NASA scientists, and black hole chasers will also love it too!
written by Science with Evie