We are entering a new era of very large telescopes; there are currently 16 telescopes with diameters of 6.5-m or more under construction or in operation around the world. Moreover, adaptive optics, which is the ability to change the optics of the telescope to correct for the twinkling caused by the Earth's atmosphere, is now providing ground-based images with resolutions better than that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Optical interferometry, which will be feasible with some of the new large telescopes, offers even greater promise. Interferometry is a technique for combining the light from multiple small telescopes to achieve the resolution of a much larger telescope (though not the collecting area). The best-known radio interferometer is the Very Large Array in New
Mexico, which was featured in the movie "Contact." The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is preparing to build the Atacama Large Millimeter-wave Array in the high desert of northern Chile, in order to look at the very youngest galaxies in the Universe. NASA is thinking of building a larger version of the Hubble Space Telescope and an optical interferometer in space. Together, these new telescopes will allow astronomers to see fainter, finer, and more distant structures than ever before. This is an exciting time to be an astronomer.
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