The telescope is one of the most important inventions by mankind, which has played a vital role in expanding our knowledge about our planet and the universe.
This device offers us another perspective to look at the world by merely making far things seem nearer.
However, it was Galileo who pointed the spyglass towards the sky, which opened up an entirely new horizon of exploration.
But when was the first telescope invented? The answer remains debatable till today.
While it can be dated back to the 1600s, it is also possible that when lens-grinding techniques started advancing in the 1500s, glassmakers held up two lenses and discovered what they could do.
The spyglass has been subjected to various technological transformations since it was first developed.
From Galileo Galilei to Sir Isaac Newton to the great Edwin Hubble, these are just a few of the great minds who have all contributed to the scientific advancement of the telescope.
When was the first telescope invented?
Several people believe that Galileo Galilei was the first person to invent the telescope. However, the first invention of the telescope can be credited to Hans Lippershey in the early 16th Century.
Lipperhey was a German-Dutch glassmaker, who was successful in controlling the amount of light entering his telescope.
He did so by putting a mask on the telescope that allowed a reduced amount of light to enter. By focusing on the visible light, he could see the images clearly.
His prototype inspired other scientists to work on improving the telescope, and thus began the beginning of the telescope’s evolution.
When did Galileo invent the telescope?
The story of Galileo and the telescope has set a powerful example that outlines the key role technologies play in advancing scientific knowledge.
Earlier, telescopes were majorly used to survey military operations and other Earth-bound observations. Galileo Galilei was part of a small group of astronomers and was the first one to turn the telescopes skyward.
While Galileo didn’t invent the telescope, he played a crucial role in its advancement. He discovered mountains and craters on the surface of the moon, the Milky Way, sunspots, the rings of Saturn, and four of Jupiter’s moons.
Without even seeing one, Galileo designed his own telescope just a few days after he heard about the “Danish perspective glass” in 1609.
The first prototype he created based on the dutch device, could magnify objects up to three diameters, making them look thrice as much larger than what was visible to the naked eye.
According to “Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography,” written by Stillman Drake, Galileo went on to present the telescope with a few improvements, to the Venetian senate which then earned him an offer of lifetime lectureship at the University of Padua.
After the initial success, he focused on improving the device. The latest refined change in the design enabled the device to magnify the object eight times.
He kept making improvements and soon reached a point where he could magnify up to thirty times. This increased magnification of space had a significant and immediate impact on science, and the observations didn’t remain exclusive to Galileo.
After the groundbreaking revelations by Hans Lippershey and Galileo Galilei, other scientists across Europe began designing and building their own telescopes.
Refracting telescopes use lenses to gather and focus light. The largest one opened in 1897 at Yerkes Observatory, Wisconsin, but was soon made obsolete by larger mirrors.
Later in 1917, the Hooker hundred-inch reflecting telescope opened in Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, Calif.
Edwin Hubble used this telescope to identify that the Andromeda Nebula was in a galaxy 2.5 million light years away from the Milky Way.
Impact on Science
The invention of telescopes has allowed science to advance towards attaining significant insights about the working of the universe. They allowed Galileo to provide a visual proof to Nicolaus Copernicus’ argument that the Sun is the center of the Solar System.
It is now easily possible to observe space objects that are light years away from us. From the weather patterns of planets to the surface of the moon, telescopes have provided us with a detailed view of Space.
Scientists are now able to explore planetary systems that are similar to ours, in other galaxies.
1. Hubble Space Telescope
Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope contributed greatly to astronomy by determining the age of the universe with precision, observing galaxies in the universe, locating moons near Pluto, observing exoplanets, and monitoring space weather.
13.2 meters long and 4.2 meters in diameter, the telescope has completed around 1.3 million observations since 1990, and has a battery capacity similar to twenty-two car batteries combined.
2. Kepler Telescope
Launched in 2009, the Kepler telescope has helped discover more than four thousand potential planets and is hence known as the planet-hunting machine.
Initially focused on a part of the Cygnus constellation, the telescope went on to discover super-Earths and rocky planets which were one of the major contributions made so far.
3. James Webb Space Telescope
Set to be launched in 2021, this telescope has been designed to cover four primary themes: first light of the universe, how stars are formed, exploring the origins of life, and unraveling the formation of the initial galaxies.
Designed to act as an infrared telescope, the mirror comprises eighteen segments that are adjustable and foldable. Moreover, it is equipped with a shield made of five layers, each equivalent to the size of a tennis court, to protect it from the sun.
When were telescopes invented – Conclusion
Hence, by debating about when were telescopes invented, we’ve realized how far we’ve come from the first telescope.
With major scientific advancements, it has now become possible for even amateurs to explore their astronomical hobby. You can easily find various budget-friendly telescopes that would allow you to view space.
We’ve come to an age wherein scientists are looking for other habitable planets, which has been possible solely due to the invention of telescopes.
Thus, telescopes have broadened the range of space investigations and helped gather vital information for astrophysicists and cosmologists.