Telescopes from the Ground Up

Too hot to handle

Ritchey was also careful to protect the finished mirror against changes in temperature, because temperature changes cause glass to expand and contract. Ritchey covered the dome with a canvas screen and a canopy of blankets. The shutters were almost airtight and kept closed during the day, when temperatures rose.

One size fits all

The telescope, completed in 1908, was designed to be used in many different ways. Ritchey introduced the “Coudé system” — a novel way of deflecting the light outside the telescope to instruments too heavy to be attached to the tube. This freed astronomers to choose among many instruments to analyze the light. The telescope was used to do photography and spectroscopy, using cameras and spectroscopes. In the future, many large reflectors followed Ritchey’s example and were built with a similarly flexible design. In fact, you could say that the 60-inch reflecting telescope was really the first modern telescope.

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