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Space Science

Small Telescopes Make Big Discoveries 37

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Hakeem Oluseyi, an astronomer at the Florida Institute of Technology and president of the African Astronomical Society, says his goal is to put one research telescope in every country, starting with African and Southern Hemisphere nations because there is now an amazing opportunity for small telescopes to discover and characterize new planetary systems, as well as measure the structure of the Milky Way. 'Astronomers are no longer looking at high-definition pictures but at HD movies, scanning for objects that change and for transient ones,' says Oluseyi. 'A 4-inch telescope was used to discover the first exoplanet by the transit method, where you watch the brightness vary.' Small telescopes capable to doing real science are a lot cheaper than people think. A 1-meter telescope costs $300,000 but reduce the size by 60 percent, and it falls to just $30,000. For example the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) uses hardware costing less than $75,000 to look at millions of very bright stars at once, over broad sections of sky, and at low resolution to see if the starlight dims just a little — an indication that a planet has crossed in front of the star. The KELT team has already discovered the existence of a very unusual faraway planet — KELT-1b, a super hot, super dense ball of metallic hydrogen so massive that it may better be described as a 'failed star' and located so close to its star that it whips through an entire 'yearly' orbit in a little over a day."
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Small Telescopes Make Big Discoveries

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  • by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @07:52PM (#41625465)

    Really? Not even trying?

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Thursday October 11, 2012 @09:50PM (#41626319) Journal

    Actually we are using number crunching to improve images. The air waves and wiggle kind of like the light you see at the bottom of a pool (it actually different because the atmosphere's upper boundary isn't the source of the moving refraction, but the effect is pretty much the same. It makes it hard to get a clear image especially if you average the image out over long exposures. The mirrors on modern terrestrial telescopes have thin mirrors and actuators that deform the mirror. So they slightly deform the mirror to accommodate the fluctuations in the atmosphere so the two cancel out. They way they measure the atmosphere, is by shooting a laser straight out from the telescope to create an artificial star upon which to focus.

    Yes computers are used to analyze the image to control the deformation, but its the shifting mirror that fixes the unfocussed image.

  • by esldude ( 1157749 ) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @10:23PM (#41626481)
    Modern telescopes with the ability to compensate for atmospherics are now so good they can work at higher resolution than even the Hubble could manage above the atmosphere. That is one reason they decided to end the Hubble's service. Better images are possible from the ground now at much reduced cost vs the Hubble. Or in other words they can be almost completely effective to remove the ill effects of the atmosphere. Then the limit to resolution is simply the diameter of the instrument which on the ground can be larger than the Hubble.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser