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Space Technology: An Ever Growing Field Essay

1758 words - 7 pages

From early star gazing through primitive telescopes to ttest rockets to sophisticatedsatellites, the human expansion into space is perhaps the most amazing engineering featof the 20th century. The development of space technology has thrilled the world,expanded our knowledge base, and improved our capabilities. Thousand of usefulproducts and services have resulted from space technology, including medical devices,improved weather forecasting, and wireless communications.English scientist Roger Bacon first described the fundamental optical principles ofthe telescope in the 13th century. Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey is creditedwith inventing the first telescope in the year 1608, when he discovered that a distantobject appeared to be much closer when viewed through a concave lens and a convexlens held in front of each other. He mounted the lenses in a tube to make the firstrefracting telescope.Early telescopes were not used to explore the heavens; rather, they wereemployed for military purposes, to detect advancing armies or ships. News of thetelescope's invention spread rapidly through Europe. Glass grinding and polishingtechniques, which had been developed since the 13th century, made it easy for thetelescope design to be constructed and improved. Science historians credit Italianscientist Galileo with the first use of the telescope for scientific observations ofastronomical objects. In 1609, using a homemade telescope that could magnify objects to20 times the size seen by the naked eye, Galileo discovered four moons orbiting theJuarez2planet Jupiter. By the end of the following year, he had used his telescope to resolve theMilky Way Galaxy into countless stars, see dark spots on the Sun, and map the face ofthe Moon.A modern astronomical telescope weighs hundreds of tons, yet it is able to swingsmoothly to point at any part of the sky. When a big telescope turns to look at a differentpart of the sky, there is a risk that the mirror will sag very slightly under its own weight,ruining the detail in the image. The bigger the mirror, the brighter and more detailed theimage it forms. That is why most new large astronomical mirrors, unlike previousdesigns, are not made from one heavy, solid, self-supporting piece of glass. Like allmirrors, each consists of just a few ounces of aluminum coated onto a thick glass disk.This disk is a massive curved mirror, which focuses light onto a detector called a charge-coupled device, like a lens, it can focus the light that it gathers. But now that the largestsingle-piece mirrors are about as big as they can be, astronomers are devising new typesof mirrors for even larger telescopes.Some of the most recognized telescopes are, ranging from largest to smallest;VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile; Large Binocular Telescope, Mount Graham, Arizona; Hobby-Eberly Telescope, Mount Fowlkes, Texas; Keck Telescopes, Mauna Kea, Hawaii;Magellan 1, Chile; MMT, Mount Hopkins, Arizona; Bolshoi Azimuthal Telescope,Mount Pasthukhov,...

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