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A big research telescope is never finished. Over the decades, it can be upgraded with new optics, better pointing systems, and new instruments for capturing the light from astronomical objects. So instead of getting weaker as time goes on, it gets better.
A case in point is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory. It’s one of the biggest telescopes in the world. Its main mirror, which gathers and focuses starlight, is three stories tall.
HET was dedicated two decades ago. But after a multi-year upgrade, it was re-dedicated in April. McDonald director Taft Armandroff explained some of the changes:
HET has been upgraded to a wider field, with better image quality and truly remarkable instrumentation to attack the scientific problems that our scientists have deemed our top priority. In fact, we have some of the most complex and ambitious astronomical instrumentation on the planet right here in our back yard now.
More new instruments are being installed and tested this summer and fall.
Astronomers will use these new instruments to look for dark energy, which is causing the universe to expand faster as it ages. They’ll also hunt for planets in other star systems, and try to learn about the planets they discover. And they’ll study the properties of stars, the way galaxies cluster together, and much more.
The astronomers also will be using an even bigger telescope that’s under construction in Chile. More about the Giant Magellan Telescope tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield