Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2008 December 13
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The 60-inch Reflector
Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (TWAN), courtesy Mike Simmons (AWB)

Explanation: On the night of December 13, 1908, 100 years ago today, the 60-inch diameter reflecting telescope of Mount Wilson Observatory was first tested on the stars. It became the first successful large reflecting telescope. The 60-inch reflector demonstrated a scalable design that used a mirror to gather faint starlight, rather than a large and more difficult to support lens, becoming the granddaddy of all, even larger, modern telescopes. Now-famous astronomers, including Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble, were able to use the 60-inch reflector to embark on a new kind of exploration of stars, distant galaxies, and the nature of the universe. Still looking skyward a century after its first light, the historic telescope is seen here pointing toward one of the most recognizable celestial events of 2008, the remarkable conjunction of Moon, Venus, and Jupiter.

Tomorrow's picture: false dawn

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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