Telescopes from the Ground Up

Up in the air

The massive telescope was hung by chains from two 50-foot stone walls. Rosse, sitting on a platform 50 feet in the air, would gaze down the tube. The telescope had a backup mirror, which was kept polished while the other mirror was in use. When one mirror became tarnished, it could be removed and the backup mirror inserted in its place. This way, the telescope was always ready.

But as it turned out, that didn’t matter. The telescope was used only rarely. It could be moved up and down, but only slightly from side to side, which meant its view of the sky was limited.

Get to the root of it

Another major problem was the place where the telescope had been built. Rosse’s estate was located in a damp, windy area. The cloudy weather, as well as the atmospheric distortion, which makes the stars appear to twinkle, made viewing difficult most of the time. For the first time, astronomers started thinking about where to build telescopes as well as how to build them.

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Early Reflectors