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In 1642, the same year that the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei passed away, a new scientist, Sir Isaac Newton was born. An Englishman, Sir Isaac Newton became an admirer of Galileo's work and made his own mark in history by developing a major advancement of the telescope. There were several problems with the refractor telescopes that existed during that time. The glass lenses caused unwanted rings of color and created blurred images. Some telescopes had to be made longer in order to correct the problem, sometimes reaching over 100 feet in length. In addition, the weight of the glass lenses made the telescopes heavy and cumbersome to use. By using curved mirrors and inventing the reflector telescope, Newton was able to make a major advancement of the telescope. He created a telescope which magnified the image millions of times rather than hundreds of times.
American astronomer George Ellery Hale, set his sights on bigger, more powerful telescopes than what was available during the early 1900s. In 1917, Hale built a 100-inch telescope in Mount Wilson, California. This 5-ton instrument remained the largest telescope in the world until the creation of the 200-inch Hale telescope, put into use in 1948. The tube alone of the 200-inch Hale telescope weighs 150-tons. A 200-inch concave mirror sits at the bottom of the telescope tube. By pumping oil at a pressure of 300 pounds per square inch through all of the moving parts of the telescope, this remarkable piece of stargazing machinery is able to operate without any friction. Unfortunately, Hale passed away in 1938, years before the completion of the 200-inch Hale Telescope. However, this telescope stands at the California Mount Palomar Observatory as a testament to the man's commitment to gaining knowledge about the universe around him. The 200-inch Hale telescope is used today as one of the world's leading instruments of research in astronomy and astrophysics.
In the early 1600s, a Dutch eyeglass maker by the name of Hans Lippershey conceived the idea of making an instrument with two glass lenses in order to see objects at a distance. In 1608, he applied for a patent with the government in order to gain sole credit for his invention, the first telescope. In order to receive the patent, Lippershey needed to do two things; first, he needed to make three additional models of his device and second, he needed to keep his idea a secret. Lippershey was only successful at the first task, making additional models of his device. Word quickly spread of his invention of the first telescope and Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei made his own telescope creations. Tiny by today's standards, Galileo's telescopes measured no bigger than an inch, crosswise. From 1610 to 1619, Galileo used his telescope to make a number of discoveries, including the moon's mountains and craters as well as the moons around Jupiter.
Inventor Bernhard Schmidt, creator of the Schmidt camera, would never live to see the creation of the telescope that is so popular today, the Schmidt Camera Cassegrain. He died in 1935, five years after he created the Schmidt camera. Though the Schmidt Camera Cassegrain remains popular among amateur astronomers, the original Schmidt camera is still used today. Astronomers employ the Schmidt camera for survey work, searching for asteroids and comets, as well as tracking artificial earth satellites. One of the most well known Schmidt cameras of our time resides at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego – the Samuel Oschin Schmidt telescope, a 48 inch aperture powerhouse, used only for photographic purposes.
Once Sir Isaac Newton created the reflector telescope, the next step was the construction of a large-scale version. William Herschel was a German born astronomer who undertook the building of a 20-foot model of the reflector telescope. Herschel's telescope marked a new discovery of planets in the solar system. In 1781, he discovered the planet Uranus. The discovery of Uranus led to the discovery of Neptune, verified through the use of mathematical calculations for the first time in history. The discovery of planets in the solar system continued to 1930, when 24-year-old astronomer Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto.
German astronomer Bernhard Schmidt invented the Schmidt camera telescope in 1930. He employed the use of catadioptric technology, involving mirrors and lenses to reflect and refract light. A spherical mirror at the rear of the telescope and a glass corrector plate placed at the front of the telescope assisted in the correction of optical distortion. The Schmidt camera telescope became the prototype for today's Schmidt Cassegrain, created in the 1960's by combining the Schmidt corrector plate with the Cassegrain camera originally created by Laurent Cassegrain.
Now, the Schmidt Cassegrain is the most popular type of telescope used today. The more durable closed tube design makes a portable, compact telescope with high level of focus capability for photography, terrestrial, planetary, and deep space viewing.
In 1944, Russian optician and astronomer, Dmitri Maksutov invented a catadioptric telescope, the Maksutov telescope. The catadioptric telescope is an optical system which uses both mirrors and lenses to reflect and refract light. This telescope was similar to its precursor, the Schmidt telescope, with the exception of an added feature, a spherical corrector plate which further removed any optical imperfections. John Gregory, an employee of the technology company Perkin-Elmer, published the first designs for the Maksutov-Cassegrain in a 1957 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine for the use of other amateur astronomers. The commercial creation of the Maksutov-Cassegrain was to be reserved for Perkin-Elmer. The Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope design employed the use of the Maksutov corrector plate in combination with the Cassegrain telescope, first developed by Laurent Cassegrain in 1672.
The Maksutov telescope, the forerunner to the Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, became the second type of compound telescope invented during its creation in 1944. The addition of the Maksutov corrector lens to the Cassegrain model of telescope created a more compact design in today's modern version of the Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. Today, this telescope is one of the best designed types of telescopes with optimal definition and focus for planetary viewing. Well-known telescope manufacturers such as Meade, Bushnell, and Celestron produce the high definition Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope.