A telescope is an instrument that helps us to discover the sky. We’ve been building telescopes since the 17th century and we derive the name ‘telescope’ from the Greek words for ‘far’ — τῆλε and ‘see’ — σκοπεν. Galileo is probably one of the most important and well-known inventors of the telescope. And not only that, Galileo is also one of the first people to use telescopes for astronomy.
But now that we are in the 21st century, we have upgraded to telescopes that are computerised. We control these machines via a computer, whether it is internal or external. Not all telescopes are completely controlled via computers; some telescopes are only partially controlled via computers.
There are two kinds of computerised telescopes: there is the kind that professional researchers use and there is the kind that amateur astronomers use.
Hubble is one of the most famous telescopes that have ever been used. This telescope hangs out in earth’s orbit and it researches what happens out there. Computers on earth control every little move of the Hubble telescope and no human needs to worry much about the telescope’s aim, opening, closing, or even of the photographs it takes.
Most of these computerised telescopes are quite big in size – the Keck telescopes weigh 300 tons.
Amateur telescopes are also moving up in the world and you’re sure to find something that can impress from most manufacturers. Manufacturers have caught on to the craze and nearly all amateur telescopes can now connect to a computer at the very least. These systems generally have on-board aiming computers that have big databases of objects and internal star charts. These systems use the equatorial mount that can only operate in two directions: right ascension and declination.
Many computerised telescopes gather information for researchers and some systems have computer sensing units – these control the optics’ temperature, make it easier to get perfect focus, and some also guide the system’s camera.
So thanks to the levels of sophistication available today, there are endless possibilities for everyone – professionals and amateurs – when it comes to telescopes.
Oo.com.au wrote this article to educate readers on the history, purpose and need for computerised telescopes.