A reflecting telescope (also called a reflector) is a telescope that uses a single or a combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image. The reflecting telescope was invented in the 17th century, by Isaac Newton, as an alternative to the refracting telescope which, at that time, was a design that suffered from severe chromatic aberration. Although reflecting telescopes produce other types of optical aberrations, it is a design that allows for very large diameter objectives. Almost all of the major telescopes used in astronomy research are reflectors. Reflecting telescopes come in many design variations and may employ extra optical elements to improve image quality or place the image in a mechanically advantageous position. Since reflecting telescopes use mirrors, the design is sometimes referred to as a "catoptric" telescope.
The idea that curved mirrors behave like lenses dates back at least to Alhazen's 11th century treatise on optics, works that had been widely disseminated in Latin translations in early modern Europe. Soon after the invention of the refracting telescope, Galileo, Giovanni Francesco Sagredo, and others, spurred on by their knowledge of the principles of curved mirrors, discussed the idea of building a telescope using a mirror as the image forming objective. There were reports that the Bolognese Cesare Caravaggi had constructed one around 1626 and the Italian professor Niccolò Zucchi, in a later work, wrote that he had experimented with a concave bronze mirror in 1616, but said it did not produce a satisfactory image. The potential advantages of using parabolic mirrors, primarily reduction of spherical aberration with no chromatic aberration, led to many proposed designs for reflecting telescopes. The most notable being James Gregory, who published an innovative design for a ‘reflecting’ telescope in 1663. It would be ten years (1673), before the experimental scientist Robert Hooke was able to build this type of telescope, which became known as the Gregorian telescope.
Isaac Newton has been generally credited with building the first reflecting telescope in 1668. It used a spherically ground metal primary mirror and a small diagonal mirror in an optical configuration that has come to be known as the Newtonian telescope.
Despite the theoretical advantages of the reflector design, the difficulty of construction and the poor performance of the speculum metal mirrors being used at the time meant it took over 100 years for them to become popular. Many of the advances in reflecting telescopes included the perfection of parabolic mirror fabrication in the 18th century, silver coated glass mirrors in the 19th century, long-lasting aluminum coatings in the 20th century, segmented mirrors to allow larger diameters, and active optics to compensate for gravitational deformation. A mid-20th century innovation was catadioptric telescopes such as the Schmidt camera, which use both a spherical mirror and a lens (called a corrector plate) as primary optical elements, mainly used for wide-field imaging without spherical aberration.
The late 20th century has seen the development of adaptive optics and lucky imaging to overcome the problems of seeing, and reflecting telescopes are ubiquitous on space telescopes and many types of spacecraft imaging devices.
A curved primary mirror is the reflector telescope's basic optical element that creates an image at the focal plane. The distance from the mirror to the focal plane is called the focal length. Film or a digital sensor may be located here to record the image, or a secondary mirror may be added to modify the optical characteristics and/or redirect the light to film, digital sensors, or an eyepiece for visual observation.
The primary mirror in most modern telescopes is composed of a solid glass cylinder whose front surface has been ground to a spherical or parabolic shape. A thin layer of aluminum is vacuum deposited onto the mirror, forming a highly reflective first surface mirror.
Some telescopes use primary mirrors which are made differently. Molten glass is rotated to make its surface paraboloidal, and is kept rotating while it cools and solidifies. (See Rotating furnace.) The resulting mirror shape approximates a desired paraboloid shape that requires minimal grinding and polishing to reach the exact figure needed.
Reflecting telescopes, just like any other optical system, do not produce "perfect" images. The need to image objects at distances up to infinity, view them at different wavelengths of light, along with the requirement to have some way to view the image the primary mirror produces, means there is always some compromise in a reflecting telescope's optical design.
Because the primary mirror focuses light to a common point in front of its own reflecting surface almost all reflecting telescope designs have a secondary mirror, film holder, or detector near that focal point partially obstructing the light from reaching the primary mirror. Not only does this cause some reduction in the amount of light the system collects, it also causes a loss in contrast in the image due to diffraction effects of the obstruction as well as diffraction spikes caused by most secondary support structures.
The use of mirrors avoids chromatic aberration but they produce other types of aberrations. A simple spherical mirror cannot bring light from a distant object to a common focus since the reflection of light rays striking the mirror near its edge do not converge with those that reflect from nearer the center of the mirror, a defect called spherical aberration. To avoid this problem most reflecting telescopes use parabolic shaped mirrors, a shape that can focus all the light to a common focus. Parabolic mirrors work well with objects near the center of the image they produce, (light traveling parallel to the mirror's optical axis), but towards the edge of that same field of view they suffer from off axis aberrations:
There are reflecting telescope designs that use modified mirror surfaces (such as the Ritchey–Chrétien telescope) or some form of correcting lens (such as catadioptric telescopes) that correct some of these aberrations.
Nearly all large research-grade astronomical telescopes are reflectors. There are several reasons for this:
The Gregorian telescope, described by Scottish astronomer and mathematician James Gregory in his 1663 book Optica Promota, employs a concave secondary mirror that reflects the image back through a hole in the primary mirror. This produces an upright image, useful for terrestrial observations. Some small spotting scopes are still built this way. There are several large modern telescopes that use a Gregorian configuration such as the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Magellan telescopes, the Large Binocular Telescope, and the Giant Magellan Telescope.
The Newtonian telescope was the first successful reflecting telescope, completed by Isaac Newton in 1668. It usually has a paraboloid primary mirror but at focal ratios of f/8 or longer a spherical primary mirror can be sufficient for high visual resolution. A flat secondary mirror reflects the light to a focal plane at the side of the top of the telescope tube. It is one of the simplest and least expensive designs for a given size of primary, and is popular with amateur telescope makers as a home-build project.
The Cassegrain telescope (sometimes called the "Classic Cassegrain") was first published in a 1672 design attributed to Laurent Cassegrain. It has a parabolic primary mirror, and a hyperbolic secondary mirror that reflects the light back down through a hole in the primary. Folding and diverging effect of the secondary creates a telescope with a long focal length while having a short tube length.
The Ritchey–Chrétien telescope, invented by George Willis Ritchey and Henri Chrétien in the early 1910s, is a specialized Cassegrain reflector which has two hyperbolic mirrors (instead of a parabolic primary). It is free of coma and spherical aberration at a nearly flat focal plane if the primary and secondary curvature are properly figured, making it well suited for wide field and photographic observations. Almost every professional reflector telescope in the world is of the Ritchey–Chrétien design.
Including a third curved mirror allows correction of the remaining distortion, astigmatism, from the Ritchey–Chrétien design. This allows much larger fields of view.
The Dall–Kirkham Cassegrain telescope's design was created by Horace Dall in 1928 and took on the name in an article published in Scientific American in 1930 following discussion between amateur astronomer Allan Kirkham and Albert G. Ingalls, the magazine editor at the time. It uses a concave elliptical primary mirror and a convex spherical secondary. While this system is easier to grind than a classic Cassegrain or Ritchey–Chrétien system, it does not correct for off-axis coma. Field curvature is actually less than a classical Cassegrain. Because this is less noticeable at longer focal ratios, Dall–Kirkhams are seldom faster than f/15.
There are several designs that try to avoid obstructing the incoming light by eliminating the secondary or moving any secondary element off the primary mirror's optical axis, commonly called off-axis optical systems.
The Herschelian reflector is named after William Herschel, who used this design to build very large telescopes including the 40-foot telescope in 1789. In the Herschelian reflector the primary mirror is tilted so the observer's head does not block the incoming light. Although this introduces geometrical aberrations, Herschel employed this design to avoid the use of a Newtonian secondary mirror since the speculum metal mirrors of that time tarnished quickly and could only achieve 60% reflectivity.
A variant of the Cassegrain, the Schiefspiegler telescope ("skewed" or "oblique reflector") uses tilted mirrors to avoid the secondary mirror casting a shadow on the primary. However, while eliminating diffraction patterns this leads to an increase in coma and astigmatism. These defects become manageable at large focal ratios — most Schiefspieglers use f/15 or longer, which tends to restrict useful observation to the Moon and planets. A number of variations are common, with varying numbers of mirrors of different types. The Kutter (named after its inventor Anton Kutter) style uses a single concave primary, a convex secondary and a plano-convex lens between the secondary mirror and the focal plane, when needed (this is the case of the catadioptric Schiefspiegler). One variation of a multi-schiefspiegler uses a concave primary, convex secondary and a parabolic tertiary. One of the interesting aspects of some Schiefspieglers is that one of the mirrors can be involved in the light path twice — each light path reflects along a different meridional path.
Stevick-Paul telescopes are off-axis versions of Paul 3-mirror systems with an added flat diagonal mirror. A convex secondary mirror is placed just to the side of the light entering the telescope, and positioned afocally so as to send parallel light on to the tertiary. The concave tertiary mirror is positioned exactly twice as far to the side of the entering beam as was the convex secondary, and its own radius of curvature distant from the secondary. Because the tertiary mirror receives parallel light from the secondary, it forms an image at its focus. The focal plane lies within the system of mirrors, but is accessible to the eye with the inclusion of a flat diagonal. The Stevick-Paul configuration results in all optical aberrations totaling zero to the third-order, except for the Petzval surface which is gently curved.
The Yolo was developed by Arthur S. Leonard in the mid-1960s. Like the Schiefspiegler, it is an unobstructed, tilted reflector telescope. The original Yolo consists of a primary and secondary concave mirror, with the same curvature, and the same tilt to the main axis. Most Yolos use toroidal reflectors. The Yolo design eliminates coma, but leaves significant astigmatism, which is reduced by deformation of the secondary mirror by some form of warping harness, or alternatively, polishing a toroidal figure into the secondary. Like Schiefspieglers, many Yolo variations have been pursued. The needed amount of toroidal shape can be transferred entirely or partially to the primary mirror. In large focal ratios optical assemblies, both primary and secondary mirror can be left spherical and a spectacle correcting lens is added between the secondary mirror and the focal plane (catadioptric Yolo). The addition of a convex, long focus tertiary mirror leads to Leonard's Solano configuration. The Solano telescope doesn't contain any toric surfaces.
One design of telescope uses a rotating mirror consisting of a liquid metal in a tray which is spun at constant speed. As the tray spins the liquid forms a paraboloidal surface of essentially unlimited size. This allows for very big telescope mirrors (over 6 metres), but unfortunately they cannot be steered, as they always point vertically.
In a prime focus design no secondary optics are used, the image is accessed at the focal point of the primary mirror. At the focal point is some type of structure for holding a film plate or electronic detector. In the past, in very large telescopes, an observer would sit inside the telescope in an "observing cage" to directly view the image or operate a camera. Nowadays CCD cameras allow for remote operation of the telescope from almost anywhere in the world. The space available at prime focus is severely limited by the need to avoid obstructing the incoming light.
For telescopes built to the Cassegrain design or other related designs, the image is formed behind the primary mirror, at the focal point of the secondary mirror. An observer views through the rear of the telescope, or a camera or other instrument is mounted on the rear. Cassegrain focus is commonly used for amateur telescopes or smaller research telescopes. However, for large telescopes with correspondingly large instruments, an instrument at Cassegrain focus must move with the telescope as it slews; this places additional requirements on the strength of the instrument support structure, and potentially limits the movement of the telescope in order to avoid collision with obstacles such as walls or equipment inside the observatory.
The Nasmyth design is similar to the Cassegrain except the light is not directed through a hole in the primary mirror; instead, a third mirror reflects the light to the side of the telescope to allow for the mounting of heavy instruments. This is a very common design in large research telescopes.
Adding further optics to a Nasmyth-style telescope to deliver the light (usually through the declination axis) to a fixed focus point that does not move as the telescope is reoriented gives a coudé focus (from the French word for elbow). The coudé focus gives a narrower field of view than a Nasmyth focus and is used with very heavy instruments that do not need a wide field of view. One such application is high-resolution spectrographs that have large collimating mirrors (ideally with the same diameter as the telescope's primary mirror) and very long focal lengths. Such instruments could not withstand being moved, and adding mirrors to the light path to form a coudé train, diverting the light to a fixed position to such an instrument housed on or below the observing floor (and usually built as an unmoving integral part of the observatory building) was the only option. The 60-inch Hale telescope (1.5 m), Hooker Telescope, 200-inch Hale Telescope, Shane Telescope, and Harlan J. Smith Telescope all were built with coudé foci instrumentation. The development of echelle spectrometers allowed high-resolution spectroscopy with a much more compact instrument, one which can sometimes be successfully mounted on the Cassegrain focus. Since inexpensive and adequately stable computer-controlled alt-az telescope mounts were developed in the 1980s, the Nasmyth design has generally supplanted the coudé focus for large telescopes.
For instruments requiring very high stability, or that are very large and cumbersome, it is desirable to mount the instrument on a rigid structure, rather than moving it with the telescope. Whilst transmission of the full field of view would require a standard coudé focus, spectroscopy typically involves the measurement of only a few discrete objects, such as stars or galaxies. It is therefore feasible to collect light from these objects with optical fibers at the telescope, placing the instrument at an arbitrary distance from the telescope. Examples of fiber-fed spectrographs include the planet-hunting spectrographs HARPS or ESPRESSO.
Additionally, the flexibility of optical fibers allow light to be collected from any focal plane; for example, the HARPS spectrograph utilises the Cassegrain focus of the ESO 3.6 m Telescope, whilst the Prime Focus Spectrograph is connected to the prime focus of the Subaru telescope.
The Cassegrain reflector is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas, the main characteristic being that the optical path folds back onto itself, relative to the optical system's primary mirror entrance aperture. This design puts the focal point at a convenient location behind the primary mirror and the convex secondary adds a telephoto effect creating a much longer focal length in a mechanically short system.In a symmetrical Cassegrain both mirrors are aligned about the optical axis, and the primary mirror usually contains a hole in the centre thus permitting the light to reach an eyepiece, a camera, or an image sensor. Alternatively, as in many radio telescopes, the final focus may be in front of the primary. In an asymmetrical Cassegrain, the mirror(s) may be tilted to avoid obscuration of the primary or to avoid the need for a hole in the primary mirror (or both).
The classic Cassegrain configuration uses a parabolic reflector as the primary while the secondary mirror is hyperbolic. Modern variants may have a hyperbolic primary for increased performance (for example, the Ritchey–Chrétien design); and either or both mirrors may be spherical or elliptical for ease of manufacturing.
The Cassegrain reflector is named after a published reflecting telescope design that appeared in the April 25, 1672 Journal des sçavans which has been attributed to Laurent Cassegrain. Similar designs using convex secondaries have been found in the Bonaventura Cavalieri's 1632 writings describing burning mirrors and Marin Mersenne's 1636 writings describing telescope designs. James Gregory's 1662 attempts to create a reflecting telescope included a Cassegrain configuration, judging by a convex secondary mirror found among his experiments.The Cassegrain design is also used in catadioptric systems.George Ellery Hale
George Ellery Hale (June 29, 1868 – February 21, 1938) was an American solar astronomer, best known for his discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots, and as the leader or key figure in the planning or construction of several world-leading telescopes; namely, the 40-inch refracting telescope at Yerkes Observatory, 60-inch Hale reflecting telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory, 100-inch Hooker reflecting telescope at Mount Wilson, and the 200-inch Hale reflecting telescope at Palomar Observatory. He also played a key role in the foundation of the International Union for Cooperation in Solar Research and the National Research Council, and in developing the California Institute of Technology into a leading research university.Gregorian telescope
The Gregorian telescope is a type of reflecting telescope designed by Scottish mathematician and astronomer James Gregory in the 17th century, and first built in 1673 by Robert Hooke. James Gregory was a contemporary of Isaac Newton, both often worked simultaneously on similar projects. Gregory's design was published in 1663 and pre-dates the first practical reflecting telescope, the Newtonian telescope, built by Sir Isaac Newton in 1668. However, Gregory's design was only a theoretical description and he never actually constructed the telescope. It was not successfully built until five years after Newton's first reflecting telescope.Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope
The Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) is an automated telescope used in the search for supernovae.
The KAIT is a computer-controlled reflecting telescope with a 76 cm mirror and a CCD camera to take pictures. It is located at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California.
KAIT can take close to 100 images per hour and observe about 1000 galaxies a night.NGC 146
NGC 146 is a small open cluster in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered by John Herschel in 1829 using his father's 18.7 inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1847
NGC 1847 is a young, massive star cluster in the bar of the Large Magellanic Cloud in the constellation Dorado. It was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel with an 18.7-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1852
NGC 1852 is a star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud in the constellation Dorado. It was discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop with a 9-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1856
NGC 1856 is a young, massive star cluster similar to a "blue globular cluster" in the Magellanic Clouds in the constellation Dorado. Its age is estimated to be 80 million years. The object was discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop with a 9-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1859
NGC 1859 is an open cluster in the constellation Dorado. It was discovered in 1834 by the British astronomer John Herschel with an 18.7-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1860
NGC 1860 is an open cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud in the constellation Dorado. It was discovered in 1836 by John Herschel with an 18.7-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 1903
NGC 1903 is a star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud in the constellation Dorado. It was discovered in 1834 by John Herschel with an 18.7-inch reflecting telescope.NGC 5
NGC 5 (also MCG 6-1-13, UGC 62 and PGC 595) is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Andromeda. It has a generic "redshift estimated" distance of 212 million light years from Earth.
The galaxy was discovered by French astronomer Edouard Stephan using an 80.01 cm (31.5-inch) reflecting telescope at the Marseille Observatory on 21 October 1881.Newton's reflector
The first reflecting telescope built by Sir Isaac Newton in 1668 is a landmark in the history of telescopes, being the first known successful reflecting telescope. It was the prototype for a design that later came to be called a newtonian telescope.Newtonian telescope
The Newtonian telescope, also called the Newtonian reflector or just the Newtonian, is a type of reflecting telescope invented by the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), using a concave primary mirror and a flat diagonal secondary mirror. Newton's first reflecting telescope was completed in 1668 and is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope. The Newtonian telescope's simple design makes it very popular with amateur telescope makers.Niccolò Zucchi
Niccolò Zucchi (Italian pronunciation: [nikkoˈlɔ dˈdzukki; tˈtsukki]; December 6, 1586 – May 21, 1670) was an Italian Jesuit, astronomer, and physicist.
As an astronomer he may have been the first to see the belts on the planet Jupiter (on May 17, 1630), and reported spots on Mars in 1640.
His "Optica philosophia experimentis et ratione a fundamentis constituta", published in 1652–56, described his 1616 experiments using a curved mirror instead of a lens as a telescope objective, which may be the earliest known description of a reflecting telescope. In his book he also demonstrated that phosphors generate rather than store light. He also published two other works on mechanics and machines.Primary mirror
A primary mirror (or primary) is the principal light-gathering surface (the objective) of a reflecting telescope.Secondary
Secondary is an adjective meaning "second" or "second hand". It may refer to:
Secondary (chemistry), term used in organic chemistry to classify various types of compounds
The group of (usually at least four) defensive backs in gridiron football
An obsolete name for the Mesozoic in geosciences
The secondary winding, or the electrical or electronic circuit connected to the secondary winding in a transformer
Secondary emission, the phenomenon where primary incident particles of sufficient energy, when hitting a surface or passing through some material, induce the emission of secondary particles
Secondary electrons, electrons generated as ionization products
Secondary color, color made from mixing primary colors
Secondary craters, often called "secondaries"
Secondary consumers in ecology Trophic dynamics
Secondary dominant in music
Secondary school – The type of school at the secondary level of education
Secondary market, an aftermarket where financial assets are traded
Secondary mirror, second mirror element/focusing surface in a reflecting telescope
Secondaries, the second-largest group of remiges (wing feathers), which attach to the inner lower armTelescope
A telescope is an optical instrument that makes distant objects appear magnified by using an arrangement of lenses or curved mirrors and lenses, or various devices used to observe distant objects by their emission, absorption, or reflection of electromagnetic radiation. The first known practical telescopes were refracting telescopes invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century, by using glass lenses. They were used for both terrestrial applications and astronomy.
The reflecting telescope, which uses mirrors to collect and focus light, was invented within a few decades of the first refracting telescope. In the 20th century, many new types of telescopes were invented, including radio telescopes in the 1930s and infrared telescopes in the 1960s. The word telescope now refers to a wide range of instruments capable of detecting different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and in some cases other types of detectors.Timeline of telescopes, observatories, and observing technology
Timeline of telescopes, observatories, and observing technology.