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APPARATUS USED BY ASTRONOMERS

Optical Telescopes

The now-indispensable optical telescope instrument was pioneered by Galileo Galilei in


1609, although others had created similar tools by then. He used his "three-powered
spyglass" to discover the four main moons of Jupiter as well as numerous previously
unknown features of the moon. Over the centuries, telescopes evolved from simple hand-held
objects to mounted beasts on mountain-top observatories and finally to telescopes orbiting
the earth in outer space, which introduced the advantage of eliminating atmospheric
distortion of the visual field. Today's telescopes are capable of seeing almost to the edge of
the known universe, giving humanity a glimpse back in time many billions of years.

Radio Telescopes
In contrast to conventional telescopes, radio
telescopes detect and assess celestial objects using not the
light waves they emit but their radio waves. Rather than
being tubular, these telescopes are built in the form of
parabolic dishes, and are often arranged in arrays. Only as a
result of these telescopes have objects such as pulsars and
quasars have become a part of the astronomical lexicon.
While visible objects such as stars and galaxies emit radio
waves as well as light waves, others can only be detected by
radio telescopes.

Spectroscopes
Spectroscopy is the study of different wavelengths of light. Many of these wavelengths
are visible to the human eye as distinct colors; a
prism, for example, separates plain
light into different spectra. The introduction of
spectroscopy into astronomy gave birth to the
science of astrophysics, for it allows for an
exhaustive analysis of objects such as stars, which mere
visualization
does not. For example, astronomers can now place stars into
different stellar classes
based on their distinct spectra. Each chemical element has its
own "signature" spectral
pattern, so it's possible to analyze the composition of a star
from
many thousands of light-years away provided
astronomers can collect its light.

Star Charts

Without telescopes, binoculars and other instruments of observation, star charts would
not exist as they do today. But star charts, in addition to serving as guides to the sky for
astronomers and mere astronomy buffs, have served as important tools in non-astronomical areas
of life, such as nautical navigation. The Internet and other modern media have made star charts -many of them interactive -- all but ubiquitous. But star charts have been around in some form for
many millennia. Indeed, in 1979, archaeologists discovered an ivory tablet dated at over 32,500
years old and believed to depict, among other things, the constellation Orion.

Comparators

The comparator, or blink microscope, is used for the examination of photographic plates
taken of the same region of the sky at different times. Two plates are exposed to the eye in rapid
succession by the movement of a lever. Changes in the configuration of the objects on the plates,
such as the movement of a suspected planet, are detectable by their relative motion, or new
objects become apparent by their alternate appearance and disappearance. The device essentially
consists of a microscope, prisms, lenses, standards to hold the plates, and illumination for the
plates. Other instruments are the stereocomparator, to measure rectangular coordinates; the
spectrocomparator, to measure the displacement of spectral lines; and the coordinate measuring
machine.