Jan 21, 2010

Evergreen Museum

The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)
The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)

By John Cowens, guest blogger

Raised in Bluffton, Ind., John Cowens received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University. He is a master elementary and middle school teacher with 32 years of experience. During his teaching career, Cowens was awarded several prestigious teaching awards, and  from 1999 – 2007, he was also a science columnist for Teaching K-8 magazine and received an award for “contributing outstanding science lessons.”  Since 2002, he has served as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Solar System Ambassador and disseminates space exploration information (i.e. images from the Hubble Space Telescope) to the general public via school assemblies, general public meetings, which often include star parties with his 14” reflector telescope.

Cowens will be presenting during Evergreen’s Member Appreciation Month in February, and will also be a regular speaker at the Museum Star Parties this summer.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) received its last repair in May 2009, and if all goes well, this amazing telescope should perform until 2014.  In the meantime, NASA is preparing to place The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) into space in 2014, which  is designed to complement the HST by seeing only infrared.

Due to stunning images from the Hubble Space Telescope and land-based telescopes, astronomers are determined to answer more questions by looking closer to unlock more “secrets” of the universe.  However, extremely large telescopes are needed to see farther and clearer into the vast universe.

 One particular telescope constructed on top of Mt. Graham in Arizona is called the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and has partners in the United States, Italy and Germany.  Since human eyes have binocular vision, this telescope operates similarly by combining images produced by the slightly different perspectives of each eye. Unlike all monocular telescopes, the Large Binocular Telescope will produce three-dimensional images with depth!

The LBT will collect light from two circular mirrors that are 8.4 m (27.5 ft.) in diameter and will have the equivalent light-gathering capacity of an 11.8m (39 ft.) instrument and a resolution of a 22.8m (75 ft.) telescope! These two huge main mirrors were spun-cast honeycomb mirrors developed and fabricated in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (Tucson, Ariz.). The secondary mirrors will be fully “adaptive,” which means the surface of the mirror can be fine adjusted by a computer in real time to compensate for our atmosphere’s instabilities. With all parts working precisely together, the LBT will achieve angular resolutions very close to the theoretical limits even when the atmospheric conditions are not perfect. Astronomers will also combine the light from the two mirrors (called “interferometric mode”) which will achieve images with 10X better resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope.  As astronomers combine the large field-size and high angular resolution, the LBT will provide astronomers with a unique facility for exploring the universe.

As of today, the Large Binocular Telescope will be the most powerful telescope on Earth… but not for long! Hawaii was chosen to build the world’s biggest telescope on top of a dormant volcano that is 13,796 feet above sea level by 2018. The telescope’s mirror will be almost 100 feet in diameter and have light-gathering ability to see objects some 13 billion light years from Earth. This will give astronomers a glimpse of the first stars and galaxies that formed some 400 million years after the Big Bang.

For more information on the Large Binocular Telescope, go to:

Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)

Inside the LBT Observatory

Diagram of the LBT


Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment


I miss looking at the stars at the beach. Back home in the Philippines, the stars were alwyas out and were shining brightly I couldn't distinguish some constellations from all the stars!


Lots of galaxies, lots of stars, lots of plntaes. By sheer weight of numbers, many of them must support life, and some of it must be intelligent. So we aren't alone in the universe after all.That's fine on the surface, but this is not a numbers game exclusively. Not only is the distance of the Earth's orbit critical to life, but so is the Earth's rotation. And so is having a moon of the right size and distance. And so is being in an area of space where we're not pelted with asteroids every few years. Then there's all the lucky breaks we got growing up. That the dinosaurs got zapped - however they got zapped. That left a worldwide niche for mammals to expand and evolve. And I could go on - way on.What I'm getting at is that if each of these factors eliminates a few billion plntaes out there, the remaining ones that may support life of any kind, let alone intelligent, then it starts to look like plntaes that support long-term, civilized, intelligent life are not so numerous - perhaps very few overall. So the nearest one might still be immensely far away. And, hey, they may be the kind of interstellar explorers we've always wanted to meet. Klatu (however it's spelled) from "Forbidden Planet." But, given our own miserable experience of the (relatively) sophisticated civilizations of the Old World interacting with the natives of the New World, I am content to let the space people stay wither they are. Far, far away.


The Hubble Deep Field picture alwyas amazes me. I liked the video but there is a thought that I think makes it even easier (or harder...) to comprehend: if you picked up a grain of sand and held it about arms length from you face against the night sky, that is how much of the sky the Deep Field image takes up.How many grains of sand can you fit in the sky? How many Galaxies are in one "grain of sand"? How many more galaxies might we see if Hubble looked for 30 days instead of 10? How many more galaxies are in the dark spots on the Deep Field image?How good God is to us, that we live in a place were life can be so pleasant, we shouldn't take that for granted. In my college Astronomy class we have already learned dozens of details that if changed minutely would make life here impossible (not to say we must be the only ones)PS. In America, 1 billion is a thousand million. 1,999,000,000 is 'one billion nine-hundred-ninety-nine million' [url=]ujukwpkb[/url] [link=]digvsv[/link]


That inithgs's perfect for what I need. Thanks!



I had heard of this telescope before but had never seen such good pictures. Thanks!


Daniel Tyler

I never hear conversation about the distance of the moon and distance of the sun.
With the total solar eclipses being completely covered by the moon.
I have to think the angular diameter of both the moon and sun being a match contributed to mankind's steps in knowledge.
But never read about it.


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