The Telescope: Its History, Technology, and Future

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Princeton University Press, 2007 - Science - 248 pages
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In the four centuries since its invention, the telescope has transformed how humans view the universe and their place in it. But what do most of us know about telescopes themselves--their history, how they work, what they are being used for today, or what the next generation of billion-dollar telescopes will look like? In The Telescope, Geoff Andersen fills in all the details for us in an accessible, nontechnical way that will appeal to the amateur astronomer and anyone else who has been more than a little curious about this amazing instrument.

The book covers every aspect of optical telescopes--from the humblest backyard setup, to state-of-the-art observatories, to the Hubble Space Telescope and spy satellites. Chapters describe the development, design, and operation of telescopes; how observatories are sited, engineered, and built; variations such as solar and liquid-mirror telescopes; and some of the key astronomical discoveries telescopes have made possible. And there are plenty of surprises along the way. We learn, for example, that most of today's professional astronomers never even look through their own telescopes, relying instead on digital imaging, measurement, and analysis--or even remote computer control of a night-shrouded observatory on the other side of the Earth.

But, as The Telescope explains, these magnificent instruments do more than simply peer into space. They project and receive laser beams--for communicating, mapping, and making detailed observations of the Earth. They also look down at us from spy satellites, providing secret images to intelligence agencies--and, increasingly, giving a curious public access to more pedestrian images.

The Telescope is the ideal introduction to a fascinating instrument that has taught us so much--but that most of us know so little about.

 

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Contents

The nakedeye universe
13
The development of the telescope
25
How a telescope works
37
Refracting telescopes
38
Reflecting telescopes
41
The perfect telescope
44
Resolution limit
46
When good telescopes go bad
53
Laser communications and remote sensing
140
Lidar
144
Surveillance
149
Spacebased surveillance
151
Other surveillance methods
156
Laser weapons
160
Nontraditional observatories
162
Solar telescopes
166

Field of view
61
Air turbulence
63
Analysing the light
66
Spectroscopy
72
Photometry
76
Polarimetry
78
Interferometry
80
Michelson interferometer
83
Michelson stellar interferometer
87
Imaging interferometry
90
Nulling interferometry
93
So you want to build an observatory?
95
Site selection
99
Mechanical engineering
102
The Hubble Space Telescope
109
Advanced telescope techniques
125
Active optics
126
Segmented primaries
127
Adaptive optics
130
Laser guide stars
137
Seeing the invisible
170
Gravitational wave observatories
174
Key discoveries
181
Comet Halley
185
The first exosolar planet
188
Milky Way black hole
190
Hubble UltraDeep Field
193
Hoags Object
195
Future telescopes
197
Another pale blue dot
205
The big boys
211
One last word
217
Some mathematical basics
220
Electromagnetic radiation
226
Getting your own telescope
233
Notes
236
Bibliography
240
Index
243
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Geoff Andersen is a research physicist at the United States Air Force Academy, where he studies telescope and microscope design, holography, and remote sensing. He has worked on projects funded by the U.S. Air Force and NASA.

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