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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

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

Exoplanets Big discoveries from little telescopes September 12, 2016

Big Dish Dishing up a giant new telescope September 11, 2016

Zenith Looking straight up August 27, 2016

Black Hole Outline Outlining a supermassive black hole June 27, 2016

Van Vleck Observatory Re-dedicating a century-old observatory June 15, 2016

Data Mining An embarrassment of cosmic riches April 29, 2016

Time-Domain Astronomy Digging into the archives April 28, 2016

Robotic Telescopes Robots take over the telescopes April 26, 2016

Lacy Galaxies Finding big but hazy galaxies March 31, 2016

Interferometry V Looking at giant black holes February 12, 2016

Interferometry IV A whole passel of telescopes February 11, 2016

Interferometry III Adding up the telescopes February 10, 2016

Interferometry II Sharpening the view of the stars February 9, 2016

Confirmation Particles from the heart of the Sun October 28, 2015

John Dobson Bringing telescopes to the masses September 13, 2015

Zenith Looking straight up September 6, 2015

Stellar Tourism Visiting an observatory by stagecoach August 15, 2015

More Charles Townes Shining a new light on the universe July 28, 2015

Moon and Jupiter Jupiter loses its status May 22, 2015

African Astronomy III Blue flashes from the distant universe March 26, 2015

African Astronomy II New uses for old radio dishes March 25, 2015

African Astronomy Changing views of southern skies March 24, 2015

Catching Neutrinos Tiny particles that change flavors January 27, 2015

Cold Dark Matter Getting cold to catch dark matter January 26, 2015

Soudan Laboratory Digging deep for dark matter January 25, 2015

Halloween A dark and lonely night in the dome October 30, 2014

New Searches Taking a closer look at exoplanets August 7, 2014

The Neighborhood Getting to know the neighbors August 6, 2014

Vega A glittering test subject in the summer sky July 8, 2014

Rebuilding Rebuilding astronomical history June 4, 2014

Clark Telescopes Celebrating some astronomical masterpieces June 3, 2014

Companionship Looking for stellar companions May 28, 2014

McDonald at 75, V Studying the mysteries of the universe May 8, 2014

Changing Skies Seeing through the moonlight April 17, 2014

Moon and Aldebaran Taking the measure of the bull’s eye February 6, 2014

Getting Started Cooking up a piece of glass December 30, 2013

Antarctic Adventures III The dark skies of the Antarctic November 12, 2013

HETDEX Update An upgrade for dark energy November 3, 2013

Moon and Jupiter Looking for a giant planet September 27, 2013

Desert Astronomy Astronomy in a desert wasteland August 18, 2013

Dark Detections Looking for particles that don’t wimp out August 6, 2013

Dark Experiments Looking for the unseeable August 5, 2013

On Station II Brilliant targets for the space station June 24, 2013

On Station New “eyes” for the space station June 23, 2013

New Solar Telescopes New eyes on our neighborhood star June 3, 2013

Solar Telescopes Taking a close look at the Sun June 2, 2013

Recalibrating Recalibrating a space telescope May 6, 2013

File Cabinet Leafing through a starry filing cabinet May 5, 2013

Dark Energy Camera Some impressive astronomical snapshots March 13, 2013

ALMA Cranking up a giant new telescope March 12, 2013

Space Watch II Searching for cosmic bullets February 11, 2013

Epsilon Geminorum A star by the numbers January 16, 2013

More Capella Seeing a star in a different light December 6, 2012

VERITAS Sparks from extreme cosmic environments November 8, 2012

Namibian Astronomy II Strange eyes on the gamma-ray sky November 7, 2012

Namibian Astronomy Watching the skies from western Africa November 6, 2012

Dark Portrait Snapping a picture of the unseeable October 8, 2012

European Southern Observatory Organizing a new observatory October 4, 2012

Homeworld Security Tracking down threats from space August 24, 2012

Going Solar Building an energy telescope May 15, 2012

Making Mirrors Making the hearts of giant telescopes May 14, 2012

Giant Magellan Telescope A new “giant” eye on the universe May 13, 2012

Moon and Taurus Snapping the universe -- from the Moon April 22, 2012

Multi-Messenger Astronomy Notes from different messengers March 26, 2012

Gravitational Waves IV Silencing the rumbling Earth January 25, 2012

Gravitational Waves III Lighting up ripples in spacetime January 24, 2012

Featured Images

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

View of a newly forming planetary system around the young star HL Tauri

Planet Tracks November 6, 2014

Postcard of the historic Elgin Watch Company Observatory in Illinois

Star Time October 25, 2014

An early view of the primary mirror of McDonald Observatory's first telescope

Seeing the Light December 31, 2013

Telescopes at the south pole

Antarctic Adventures November 13, 2013

Images of solar telescopes around the world

Fanciful Eyes June 3, 2013

Hubble Space Telescope, May 2009

Recalibrating May 6, 2013

HESS telescopes in Namibia, which study the gamma-ray universe

Extreme Telescope November 8, 2012

Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin is home to the world's largest refractor

Still Going August 18, 2011

Artist's concept of upgraded Hobby-Eberly Telescope

Facelift for Science June 3, 2011

A fish-eye image shows a laser firing from the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii.

Zapping the Sky May 17, 2010

Turning On, Tuning In April 12, 2010

Cold Astronomy January 13, 2010