Looking Deeper

From 1948 to 1991, the Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar in California, with its 200-in (5-m) mirror, was the largest functional telescope in the world. Since the 1990s, however, the development of thinner mirrors and computer-controlled systems that constantly correct distortions in a mirror's shape to ensure peak performance (so-called "adaptive optics") has led to a new generation of giants. Interferometry, a technique first used in the 1940s to combine the images from separate radio telescopes and compensate for their low resolutions (see p.41) is now used with optical telescopes, leading to huge "networked" telescopes such as the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

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