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Space Technology

Online Database Allows Scientists To Recreate Early Telescopes 52

sciencehabit writes "When Galileo Galilei shook up the scientific community with evidence of a heliocentric world, he had a little tube fitted with two pieces of glass to thank. But just how this gadget evolved in the nascent days of astronomy is poorly known. That uncertainty has inspired a group of researchers to compile the most extensive database of early refracting telescopes to date. Now, the scientists plan to use modern optics to recreate what Galileo — and the naysaying observers of his time — experienced when they first peered through these tubes at the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and the phases of Venus."
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Online Database Allows Scientists To Recreate Early Telescopes

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  • Disappointed (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:28AM (#46265397)
    Disappointed that there were no pictures of the type "this is what Galileo saw .. and this is what Newton saw ... and this is with a reasonably priced modern telescope ... and this is from an observatory".

    That would have put things in perspective
    • Why make it so complicated? Why not take the telescope out of the museum, and point it at Jupiter, and directly see what it shows you?
    • Re:Disappointed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:43AM (#46265775)

      Dr. Martin Poliakoff of the Royal Society shows Newton's telescope. One of the best youtube channels, this "Periodic Videos". In fact, all of Brady Haran's channels (Periodic Videos, Sixty Symbols, Deep Sky Videos, Numberphile, etc) are really worth a look.

  • Buy a Galileo Scope (Score:5, Informative)

    by Platinumrat ( 1166135 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:43AM (#46265461) Journal
    You can buy a really cheap, and good quality "Galileo Scope" []. It's a great starter / educational scope and the optics can be swapped out to see what Galileo saw and for more modern lenses.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:32AM (#46265563) Homepage

    I can build a crude telescope in my garage using the EXACT techniques he used. It's not hard. []

    And then just half ass the optics by only looking through them as you grind. dont use modern collimation techniques and you will get the nasty blurry full of chromatic nasty that he had to deal with.

    The other problem is that pollution and light pollution is 9000% higher than what he had.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually you probably can't. You can spend months grinding the glass into lenses on a cannonball just like him sure, but you'll be unable to get glass of the same quality he used. Whatever you end up with will be better than what he had, simply because modern glass is better quality.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Fine, make your own glass then. It's not difficult.

    • I can build a crude telescope in my garage using the EXACT techniques he used. It's not hard.

      You can build a telescope LIKE one he used but it isn't going to be the same which is the point. Galileo's telescope is lost and the exact specifications are not known. At the time, his optics were at the cutting edge and the lenses he used were likely hand-made and unique. They were also likely to be imperfect.

      This exercise is exactly the same as a computer geek trying to recreate an Apple I if none of them had survived. Yes you can build a newer computer that fits in your hand and much more powerful wi

  • ... we'll have news that they have been 3D printed by a kindergarten class in St. Louis.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:47AM (#46265609)
    ... with light pollution.
    • ... with light pollution.

      Given the available light sources, they probably used the term to complain about the servant holding the torch getting soot on their lenses.

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:18AM (#46265701) Homepage

    I would find this interesting.

    As someone who's just got into telescopes themselves after years of my brother casually using a telescope worth more than my car (he's an astrophysicist, though, so that's his game) I was bought a relatively cheap amateur one.

    I was quite surprised, in modern times, to be able to see Jupiter's clouds and Saturn rings quite clearly within only a few hours of learning how to use the damn thing and picking targets by eye (none of this Go-To crap), in my backyard, in the crowded suburbs of London, with streetlights only a few meters away, on a pseudo-clear night. And I didn't have RA motors or even proper polar alignment, I was literally just chasing the brightest dots around the sky manually to look at them.

    I know astronomy was "easier" for the ancients and for Galileo-era astronomers without such hurdles, but I had always assumed that they pretty much were cancelled out by the poor quality of the optics back then. But I was quite amazed to be able to clearly see, with a £100 scope and the default eyepieces, such detail wobbling in front of me because of the heat of the atmosphere near me.

    And even photographing them was much easier than I was led to believe (though I really need to polar-align and get my brand-new RA motor set up so I can do longer exposures).

    Honestly, I thought it would be so much harder, hearing for years from well-known astronomers like Sir Patrick Moore, etc. how much the cities destroyed the night sky. I'm sure they do. I'm sure that I *should* be able to see the Milky Way unaided. But, damn, a tiny £100 Newtonian with its supplied cheap mount and eyepieces can do wonders.

    I'm not claiming some great feat of astronomy, I'm sure this hasn't really been a shock to anyone who was interested in amateur astronomy before me. But I'm also sure Galileo saw quite clearly a lot of things that were always visible and easy to record, just maybe not always surface detail and rings (which I'm sure he would have thought were there, even if it was just on the edge of his brain supplying that brief glimpse of the whole object through his imperfect lenses and low magnification scope against the shimmering atmosphere and movement of his equipment).

    I have a page on my website (warning: long and boring) where I show my first-ever (and worst) images taken through my scope. Sure, it's a 70mm aperture, but I can't imagine that Galileo was seeing that much worse, but maybe distorted and more "lucky" good shots as it went into the smooth parts of his optics.

    He might have had to spend years with craftsmen and glass-blowing skills, honing his devices, but I'm pretty sure he would have been able to see almost as much as anyone can - even modern city-dwellers - with just a cheap scope.

  • Sorry, lost a loyal reader. []

    Oh, and for the last time: BUCK FETA.
    • 3 digit uids still going over there as well - get em while you can... :-)

    • Finally, a three digit ID. Strange to be starting back at zero karma. My only beef, the red. Its rather jarring to the eyes. I know they could not sue /. color scheme, but even a IBM blue would be less alerting to the eyes. Still, I think I'm going to fade over to the new neighborhood more and more and keeping saying to myself, change is good.

    • Well, take it for the humor or the horror, but /. is OK per the local Corporate IT Overlords, but gets "This Websense category is filtered: Suspicious Content. Sites in this category may pose a security threat to network resources or private information, and are blocked by your organization."

      Websense: when it comes to the first syllable, it has none of the second.

    • Goat cheese for a dollar? count me in.
  • We say telescope and imagine the stunning photographs made by 20th century telescopes, or even space telescopes and laugh at the ignorami of the Church who refused to see the evidence for Heliocentric theory. But back in the days of Galileo the images had severe spherical aberration, chromatic fringing and other artifacts. Even when they point to terrestrial objects the image is upside down. Many people had serious doubts about whether what they see through the telescope was real or it is some kind of illus
  • Galileo and other early inventors were bitter rivals for the secrets of optics. Lots of deception, aggrandizement, hard feelings and litigation.

    Ancient tales of magical mirrors play a part in the tale of telescopy. We have numerous accounts of, say, a man atop the highest tower in Alexandria, who, with the aid of a magical glass, can see all that happens in London. These tall tales go on and on -- magical mirrors and lenses which see distant sights, peers around corners, see through walls ... mostly far-

  • Can't really redo the view, the early observing sites are all in heavily light polluted areas

    • Can't really redo the view, the early observing sites are all in heavily light polluted areas

      Also, using modern optics are probably not going to give the same view as the technology of the time produced, even if there wasn't the light pollution. Even in modern telescopes, for any given aperture, it is the quality of the lens and/or mirrors that dictate the view.

  • But just how this gadget evolved in the nascent days of astronomy is poorly known. That uncertainty has inspired a group of researchers to compile the most extensive database of early refracting telescopes to date.

    If poorly known, then with what did they create the database from? It would appear that the information was already known and available and they digitized it into a database.

  • We need to use optics that closely approximates the technology of the time. If we still have the ability to create the glass that Galileo created then we won't even need to approximate it, we'll have the real thing.

    If that happens to be "modern" optics, that's fine, but insisting on using modern glass-production techniques is unnecessary.

  • ... are our scientist devolving in knowledge that they would have to ask the AI of the internet?

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