The Story behind the Invention of the Space Telescope

The Story behind the Invention of the Space Telescope

The Space Telescope is a pioneering invention that led to a plethora of profound discoveries about the infinite mysteries of galaxies, stars & planets. A telescope is an instrument to view distant galaxies, black holes, celestial bodies & astronomical objects. The invention of the space telescope was a major step in the evolution of the dynamics of space science.

The first operational telescopes were the American Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, OAO-2 launched in 1968, and the Soviet Orion 1 ultraviolet telescope aboard space station Salyut 1 in 1971.


The Science behind a Telescope

A telescope has two principle properties:

  • The ability to collect light
  • The ability to magnify an image

A telescope's ability to collect light is directly proportional to the diameter of its lens or mirror known as the aperture -- that is used to gather light. In general, a larger aperture has the ability to collect and focus more light. It also makes the final image brighter.

A telescope's magnification is its ability to enlarge any image depending on the combination of the lens used. The eyepiece is used to perform the magnification. Magnification can be achieved by almost any telescope using different eyepieces while the aperture is a more dominant feature.

Brilliant Minds behind the Invention of the Space Telescope

Galileo was widely accepted as the first inventor to point a telescope towards the sky where it could reach magnifications of around eight to twenty times. His telescope was able to view mountains and craters on the moon, as well as a ribbon of diffused light arching across the sky which is famously called as the Milky Way. Galileo is also famous for discovering the rings on Saturn, and Jupiter's moons.

The telescope has undergone significant transformations since its first patent registered in the 17th Century. Some of the greatest minds from Galileo Galilei to Sir Isaac Newton to the great Edwin Hubble would all eventually contribute to the development of this advanced scientific piece of equipment. Many historians recognise Hans Lippershey as the inventor of the first telescope, as he was the first to apply for a patent. After the ground-breaking work of Hans Lippershey and Galileo Galilei, other scientists around Europe began to design and build their own telescopes.

Impact of Space Telescope on Astronomy & Science

Telescopes have given us significant insights into the workings of the universe, allowing science to progress. With the use of the telescope, we realised that the sun was truly at the centre of our Solar System. If it wasn’t for the invention of the telescope, we would not have been able to observe stars & planets that are millions of miles away from us. Telescopes have also allowed us to see the surface of the moon and the weather patterns of other planets.

Evolution of the Space Telescope

The Telescope has contributed to a vast array of discoveries that paved the way for astronomy to exfoliate the mysteries of our universe to a high extent. Modern telescopes now can detect heat and radio waves. Telescopes demonstrate how our planet interacts with others, and they can illustrate the properties of physics such as gravity, energy, etc.

More recently, telescopes have allowed us to examine galaxies having planetary systems similar to our very own! We may be able to pinpoint planets where conditions can sustain life like the Earth.

Modern Space Telescopes

  • The Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps the most well-known of the modern-day telescopes. The space telescope is 13.2 meters long and has a 4.2-meter diameter. It launched in 1990 and has completed more than 1.3 million observations since then.
  • NASA is just recently launched James Webb Space Telescope. The Webb telescope primarily acts as an infrared telescope. The mirror in the Webb Telescope comprises 18 different segments that adjust and fold.

The invention of the Space Telescope played an instrumental role in perpetuating our understanding of Earth's place in the cosmos. Besides raising the horizons of ingenuity, the invention of the telescope has also played an evocative role in increasing the intrigue of astronomers and astrophysicists around the world. So, if you have a passion for space science and wish to learn more about the universe, then get a telescope and hone your physics and mathematical skills!