Have you ever looked up and wondered what that shimmering ball of light in the sky actually is, or how it looks?
The telescope, a device loved by so many people from professional astronomers to back-yard stargazers, has been around for centuries.
But how much do you actually know about telescopes?
Here we’re going to look at 24 facts about the gateway to the stars.
- The earliest known illustration of a telescope is actually a drawing done in a letter done in 1609. It was drawn by Giovanbattista della Porta.
- The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) travels around the earth at almost 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h), which is just over 22 times faster than the Land Speed World Record for the fastest car ever.
- The HST is a staggering 43.5 ft (13.2 meters) long and weighs 24,000 lbs (10,886 kg).
- Telescope is a derivation of the Latin phrases tele, which means at a distance, and scopium, which means to examine or look.
- Galileo is often said to have caused his blindness by looking at the sun through his telescope, although this cannot be confirmed, it is now believed to be caused a combination of glaucoma and cataracts.
- In March 2016, the Kepler Space Telescope saw a star measuring 500 times bigger than the sun, supernova around 1.2 billion light years away.
- During the Apollo Moon landing mission in 1969, Pope Paul actually watched the moon inside the Vatican Observatory before watching the televised moonwalk.
- A term used when discussing telescopes is First Light; this is the phrase used to describe the first moment a telescope sees the sky.
- When building a telescope, the main concern is usually clarity rather than distance, we can see millions of light-years away but clarity of planets, their surfaces and characteristics, and other astronomical wonders are a bigger drive.
- In a list of the top 10 world’s largest telescopes, Chile alone has 50% of the list. They also have the lower 50% with 4 being in the Paranal Observatory.
- In the movies pirates are often seen scanning the horizon with a device known as a Pirate Telescope. These were not actually invented by pirates – they were usually stolen from ship Captains when their ship was commandeered.
- We all know the “typical” telescope, an optical device used for magnification, but did you know there are other types of telescopes? These include infrared, x-ray and ultraviolet telescopes.
- Karl Guthe Janksy invented the world’s first Radio Telescope in 1930; the Bell Telephone Laboratories employee built the merry-go-round to help identify the cause of static interference for radios.
- The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was the designed for photon detection and cost a staggering $617,000,000 to develop. It was sent into space in April of 1991.
- An early use of telescopes in the 17th Century was to spot incoming merchant ships to allow them to have the upper hand for trading.
- The Leviathan of Parsonstown, built in Ireland, was the world’s largest telescope for over 30 years. It had an aperture of 72 inches and the mirror used weighed around 3 tons.
- Earth 2.0 is a name given to a planet that is claimed to be one of the most similar to Earth itself, it was discovered in 2015 using the Kepler Telescope.
- A well-known image called the Pillars of Creation was taken by the HST. This may actually not exist anymore; due to the speed of light it is thought we will be able to see it for a millennium more.
- Comedian, actor and all round funny man Jack Black’s parents actually worked on the HST as satellite engineers.
- Canada’s first space telescope; the Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars (MOST), is nicknamed the Humble Space Telescope.
- The largest operating telescope is actually found in the Canary Islands, known as The Gran Telescopio Canarias. The telescope took over a decade to finish building and is 34 feet wide (10 meters).
- There is actually a binocular-like telescope composed of 2 telescopes parallel to one another and is aptly named Large Binocular Telescope.
- The Hubble Space Telescope was named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble in 1983.
- In 2001, the Japanese underground Super-Kamiokande Observatory had a major failure that turned out to be catastrophic. One of the photomultiplier tubes exploded, which led to a large proportion of the other 11,200 blowing.
So there we have it, 25 facts about the telescope, from its initial documented appearance to the mind-blowing size of the largest modern telescopes, they really are incredible!