Friday, September 14, 2007

Our Big-eyed Planet

Telescopes in space are wonderful things, but telescopes on the ground can be a lot bigger and cheaper, and with the availability of adaptive optics to partially compensate for the jiggly atmosphere, they can produce image quality that can sometimes even exceed that of the Hubble Space Telescope, at least for some wavelengths.

There's a good article on the state of our planet's biggest eyes in this month's OPN (Optics & Photonics News from OSA), and this article happens to be one that is unlocked for web access by anyone in the online version of this monthly print publication for OSA members. It points out that there are currently twelve 8-meter class optical and infrared telescopes in the world, four of them on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, including the enormous Keck I and Keck II telescopes with their multi-segment 10-meter primary mirrors. And more are on the way. It's a big sky, so we need a lot of big eyes.

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