Telescopes from the Ground Up

There was a solution — one that would have seemed beyond belief to Galileo and astounded the later astronomers, but with the birth of space flight was now within reach. If the atmosphere couldn’t be defeated, it could be left behind.

Birth of the space telescope

Get to the root of it

By placing telescopes in space, astronomers could break free of the distorting and shielding effects of the Earth’s atmosphere. Producing these space observatories, however, required significant advances in telescopes, instruments, computers, and, of course, the spacecraft used to launch them. Many of these technological advances came about as a direct result of the rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War between World War II and the late 1980s.

Scientists and engineers have created telescopes that can study the universe in many different types of light, and record details that could never be observed from Earth: space telescopes.

Space telescopes and large, ground-based observatories work together to further our understanding of the universe. Space observatories have higher resolution and can look at tiny regions of the sky in great detail. Ground-based telescopes can collect more light with their colossal mirrors and be used to survey large portions of the sky. By studying images from a variety of space- and ground-based telescopes, astronomers can get a more complete view of an object.

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