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Telescopes and Modern Observatories

A telescope is an optical instrument that gathers and focuses light into a camera, CCD, spectrograph, or an astronomer’s eye. Two major types of telescopes dominate astronomy: reflectors and refractors. Many of the world’s largest telescopes are housed at observatories: The entire complex of buildings, telescopes, equipment, and staff involving scientific astronomical observations. Small observatories might consist of just one telescope situated in a dome, one instrument and computer, and one observer. McDonald Observatory is an example of a major observatory, and consists of five major telescope in five different domes, numerous instruments, computers, living quarters, outbuildings, astronomers, and engineers.


Radio Programs

On Alert Astronomers and telescopes on alert September 27, 2023

Hale Telescope Dedicating a giant telescope June 3, 2023

Back to Work Back to work for a prize-winning observatory May 9, 2023

Better Radar Improving our radar “eyes” on the solar system May 5, 2023

Yerkes Observatory The birthplace of astrophysics October 21, 2022

Glass Plates Astronomy under glass October 20, 2022

Dark Matter Machine “Mining” for dark matter October 3, 2022

Grounded Grounding a high-flying observatory September 6, 2022

Klementinum Tower Climbing toward the stars August 28, 2022

Great Refractor A beautiful astronomical tool June 24, 2022

Missing Stars Tracking down missing stars April 12, 2022

The Leviathan Putting a leviathan to work January 14, 2022

Protected Space Blocking out Earthly interference October 6, 2021

South-Pole Astronomy Special views of the universe August 9, 2021

Dangerous Asteroid Avoiding a planetary catastrophe July 31, 2021

Long-Term Commitment A long-term commitment for a telescope July 20, 2021

Pioneering Telescopes More accomplishments for two pioneers June 21, 2021

Sharper View Sharpening the view of the heavens June 10, 2021

Taking a Break An amazing observatory gets an upgrade May 18, 2021

Multiple Messengers Different messages from the universe May 17, 2021

Arcturus Measuring the girth of a big star March 12, 2021

Out of the Fire Beautiful but dangerous locations February 11, 2021

PRIzM The challenges of radio astronomy December 3, 2020

Post-War Astronomy II Opening a new field of astronomy September 2, 2020

Pulsar Searches Searching for cosmic voices February 12, 2020

Solar Telescope Watching the Sun from the house of the Sun January 23, 2020

Time Balls Keeping time with the drop of a ball December 30, 2019

Einstein Tower Sculpting a scientific monument November 1, 2019

Island Astronomy Dark skies off the coast of Africa August 16, 2019

Radio Survey Mapping the radio sky March 15, 2019

Getting Ready Getting ready for a giant telescope March 14, 2019

Making Mirrors Making the mirrors for a jumbo telescope March 13, 2019

LIGO II Listening for black holes February 20, 2019

LIGO Whipping up space and time February 19, 2019

A New Observatory Dedicating an observatory November 9, 2018

Abandoned Observatories The ghosts of abandoned observatories October 31, 2018

PANOPTES A grassroots hunt for exoplanets October 2, 2018

Evryscope Many eyes on the southern sky October 1, 2018

High Climber Climbing toward the Sun September 10, 2018

Distant Planets Planets at the spout of the teapot August 29, 2018

Watchman Nuclear reactors and exploding stars August 21, 2018

South-Pole Astronomy Science at the bottom of the world August 9, 2018

New Telescope A new eye on the radio sky August 8, 2018

Hunting Aliens Still no signs of ET July 13, 2018

Selective Viewing Selecting the right targets July 12, 2018

George Ellery Hale One man, four giant telescopes June 28, 2018

May Day Dancing around the maypole May 1, 2018

New Tools Digging through piles of data April 25, 2018

Taking Control From cages to computers April 24, 2018

Streamers New arrivals in the Milky Way April 3, 2018

Neutrinos Zipping through the universe November 8, 2017

First Look A first glimpse at a new universe November 2, 2017

Last Discovery Picking out a new moon September 9, 2017

Giant Magellan Telescope II Getting to know distant planets August 10, 2017

Giant Magellan Telescope Building a telescopic behemoth August 9, 2017

HET Upgrade Upgrading a giant telescope August 8, 2017

Spying on Supernovae Keeping many eyes on exploding stars May 22, 2017

Event Horizon Telescope Looking for a giant black hole April 4, 2017

Featured Images

hale telescope dome at night

75 and Counting! June 3, 2023

new images of sunspots

Stormy Sun May 27, 2023

stars spin around the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory

First Views April 26, 2023

Bright blue stars in front of a background of colorful filaments of gas and dust

Colorful Debris April 7, 2023

Yerkes Observatory, 1900

Astrophysics Pioneer October 21, 2022

the sofia observatory will be grounded by the end of september 2022

Grounded September 6, 2022

Illustration of the Great Refractor at Harvard Observatory

A Grand Old Telescope June 24, 2022

fire encroaches on kitt peak national observatory

In Harm's Way June 19, 2022

Leviathan January 14, 2022

magnetic field around supermassive black hole at center of galaxy m87

Doom Spiral March 26, 2021

one of the seven mirrors of the giant magellan telescope

Another Eye March 5, 2021

Wildfire at McDonald Observatory, 2011

Hazardous Duty February 11, 2021

Copeland's Septet, a collection of galaxies

Sparkling Septet January 18, 2021

Harqua Hala Observatory, Arizona

'Devil's' Observatory? December 26, 2020

The damaged Arecibo Telescope

End of an Era November 20, 2020

Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope

New Eye on the Sun January 23, 2020


Big Chips October 18, 2019

VERITAS array in Arizona

Joining the Search September 30, 2019

Radio observatory on the Moon

Looking Deep May 21, 2019

Future site of the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile

Digging In March 14, 2019

Rippling Through Space February 19, 2019

Original Cincinnati Observatory building, dedicated in 1843

New Observatory November 9, 2018

Views of Mont Blanc Observatory, France

Getting High September 10, 2018

IceCube detects a neutrino from a blazar

Cold Fire August 9, 2018

Edwin Hubble at the 100-inch Hooker Telescope

First View November 2, 2017

Artist's concept of Giant Magellan Telescope

New Giant August 9, 2017

IC 4406 planetary nebula

Beautiful Demise August 5, 2017

Evening view of Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory

A New Era April 9, 2017

A swirl of stars at the center of the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole

Looking for Darkness April 4, 2017

Laser adaptive optics system in Chile

Death Telescope? April 27, 2016

Artist's concept of completed Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer

Running Interference February 11, 2016

View of the underground Soudan Laboratory

Underground Astronomy January 26, 2015