Making It Clear!
Does anyone in your family wear glasses? They probably got them because the right type of lenses makes their blurry vision sharp and clear. Galileo used similar lenses in his telescope because he wanted to do the same thing. The first lens acts like a prism by bending and concentrating the light it receives from space into a very small area; a second movable lens called the eyepiece lets you adjust the focus and enlarge the image you see.
Your eyes and binoculars work in much the same way. Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror in a funhouse? Sometimes things aren't always what they seem. A mirror can distort what you see but scientists have found ones that are molded to form a concave surface make the best telescopes. This type of reflecting telescope catches the light received from a star on its mirror, concentrates and focuses it much like the refracting telescope does, but the image is clearer.
As the size of the mirrors in the observatories telescopes increase, the astronomers using them are able to see more distant, brighter stars. Mirrors in the Keck telescope in Hawaii are wider than a swimming pool!
Have you ever tried doing a regular activity, only doing the same thing while looking in a mirror? How about walking backwards or tying your shoe? You can probably see a telescope that uses mirrors at an observatory or a star party. Star parties are a good place to find out whether you really are interested in astronomy and it might give you a chance to try out some equipment before you buy it.
When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was called our ninth planet. But since then, astronomers have discovered other objects in the outer solar system that are similar to Pluto. In fact, some are even bigger than Pluto! In 2006, a special category was created for Pluto and its neighbors. Complete this puzzle to learn the name of this new category!
Long Ago and Far Away!
If you decided to buy a telescope, you probably would pick out a refracting telescope, because you would be moving it around a lot. Do you think you could find new planets, stars, or even the edge of the universe if you just had a bigger telescope located in a better spot?
Most telescopes are located on high mountains to avoid the atmosphere that causes the stars to twinkle. Astronomers wanting to avoid looking through the atmosphere at all used the Space Shuttle to put the Hubble telescope up above the atmosphere in 1990. They are now able to see objects that were formed over 13 billion light years ago, not long after the big bang created the universe.
What is even more exciting is that you can hear the radiation created then if you use a radio telescope. Scientists discovered this radiation when they were perfecting communication satellites. Do you have a satellite dish for your TV? The dishes for radio telescopes look like much larger models of them. One that was built to scan the skies would cover a football field. Some are close to a quarter of a mile long! Some telescopes use a series of dishes linked together to get an even better signal!
How many astronomers does it take to change a light bulb?
Break the Last-to-First Code to find out!
You are probably familiar with having an X-ray if you've ever gotten hurt or if you have been sick enough to go to the hospital. Doctors use them all of the time to see inside someone's body. Dentists also use them to look inside your teeth.
But did you know astronomers also use X-ray telescopes to see many things out in space that would not be visible using other types of telescopes? These telescopes actually see the X-rays that are given off by many of these stellar sources. X-ray telescopes have also been attached to exploration vehicles that were sent out into space. Eventually the images they receive will be sent back to Earth.
By using a combination of several different types of telescopes, scientists are able to see the same thing in several different forms, allowing them to gain more information about the phenomena that they are studying. An X-ray telescope works a lot like your television. It can turn unseen energy into visible images. If you want to see more than you have ever seen before, try looking at your TV screen through a magnifying glass. You should be able to see the red, green, and blue dots or lines that form the true picture you see.
By using telescopes and X-rays we are able to see things we wouldn't be able to see any other way. When the ability to use these X-ray devices became more popular, many people began to fear that eventually people would use these X-ray machines to see through everything, even into their houses. They wondered what would happen if someone eventually invented a pair of X-ray glasses? And if they did, would they be able to use their X-ray vision to see anything and everything? It wasn't long before a comic book character appeared on the scene that could do that very thing. This superhero's special abilities came from outer space, and the only thing that could stop him also came from there.
Saturn appears to float in space. The lightest of the gas planets would float in an ocean like a beach ball if you could find an ocean large enough to hold this huge planet!
JUST for FUN
How about making a telescope you can eat? All you need is a few waffle ice cream cones with the tips broken off the ends. Then you can dip them in melted chocolate or marshmallow cream. Add a few nuts or crushed candy bars and eat. You could also add some whipped cream or ice cream if you like.
Today, many types of machines can look into solid objects to see what is inside. Airports use a type of X-ray machine to see what people have in their luggage. This saves them time so they don't have to open each suitcase and pull all of the items out to inspect them. Would you like to have X-ray vision or a pair of X-ray glasses?
If you want to see what an actual X-ray image looks like today, you might ask your dentist or doctor if they will show you one the next time you visit their office. To keep you safe during an X-ray, medical technician suse special aprons to protect people from these invisible rays. Can you think of any other ways X-ray machines could help people find hidden objects or make our lives easier?