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Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) using its Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope.

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Pinwheel Galaxy.
Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) using its Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope.

Where Did the Modern Telescope Come From?

In this article Jeff Barbour explores the origins and development of that "Instrument of Long Seeing" known as the telescope. We trace its roots back to simple hemispheres of crystal and to the first correcting lenses - associated with both near and far-sightedness. We discuss the fundamental image quality problems shown by the earliest Telescopes and the steps taken to overcome these limitations over centuries. Despite having explored all this, we still end up with what may ultimately be an unanwerable question: "But where did the telescope really come from?"

Swift is Now Fully Operational.

Mission controllers used NASA's Swift satellite to capture this image of the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) using its Ultraviolet/Optical telescope (UVOT). This is Swift's third and final telescope to come online, joining the Burst Alert telescope (BAT) and the X-ray telescope (XRT) which are already capturing scientific data. Swift is now fully operational, and ready to spot gamma-ray bursts wherever they happen in the night sky. The BAT detects bursts when they first happen, and the entire observatory swings around quickly to focus its two additional instruments and study the gamma-ray burst as it happens.

Digging on Mars Won't Be Easy.

Because of the tremendous distance to Mars, human explorers will probably process local materials to get their air, fuel, and even building supplies. But extracting resources from the Red planet is going to be hard, especially when the environment is so hostile. scientists are studying how the dry Martian soil will likely behave in the low gravity and air pressure, to help engineers build equipment that can dig and move dirt. NASA's upcoming Phoenix lander will help put some of this research to the test when it arrives on Mars in 2008; it will be digging trenches about a half-metre deep (20 inches).

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