Wave of large new telescopes worldwide gets a lift from media

When a new gadget or technology enters the scene a few may stop and momentarily mourn the old stuff that must go to make room on the stage. A moment of silence please for automobile carburetion, tape cassettes, battleships, and fat, heavy cathode ray tube TVs. The US’s Fermilab Tevatron accelerator is shut down – Europe’s CERN with its LHC outguns it. Alas.

   However, it is not such a problem in astronomy with its telescopes. Astronomers get it both ways. Just as the Mt. Palomar 5-meter and Kitt Peak’s 4-meter instruments are still at work, so the great and still youngish twin Keck telescopes in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) will keep on keepin’ on  even after astronomers gear up with new, better eyes on the skies. Even the  60-inch telescope – top of the heap in 1908 when erected upon Mt. Wilson above the San Gabriel Valley – gets a regular workout these days to let the public take a peek at Saturn and such.

  And wow, what a lineup of even more gigantic optical telescopes are in the news. For some reason the topic is, if not hot, a little warmer than usual at the moment. A few reporters have recently caught the public up on the new crop.  If any of their yarns catch the eye for extra flair, history, technical detail or context it shall be noted.


  • Big Island Video News – David Corrigan: Thirty Meter Telescope begins construction ; Mostly press release excerpt and rewrite. The local news is that the project by Caltech, University of California, and many partners (with much money from the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation) faced opposition from preservation forces that have not given up hope of stopping it.
  • NY Times – Dennis Overbye: More Eyes on the Skies ; The TMT, Europe’s ELT (extremely large telescope), the Giant Magellan Telescope, Large Synoptic Telescope and the Webb space telescope get top billing. Plenty here on the money and int’l collaborations behind them, plus a bit on the conditions the put so many of them on Chilean mountains and how adaptive optics that take the twinkle out of they sky hsa made ever-bigger ground telescopes more than competitive, at optical and infrared wavelengths, with those in orbit, on coronagraphs that will usher in a new bunch of orbiting instruments able to spot alien planets directly, and other stuff. The usual Overbye thoroughness on parade.
  • Gizmodo – Sarah Zhang: The 5 Massive New Telescopes That Will change Astronomy Forever ; Hed does not stand up, other then as a marker of excitement. Astronomy changes continuously and other than an occasional dead-end, most changes last forever.  Has been so since before Tycho. The tone of the story is almost pessimistic, carrying a sense of finality with nothing much further to do. Pretty much the same list as Overbye’s story highlighted. His piece gets a credit link. Hence, this hsa to be taken as openly acknowledged rewrite of others’ work rather than enterprise reporting.
  • Space.com (via Discovery News) Mike Wall: Want Aliens? Launch a Monster Space Telescope ; Mostly on NASA’s Webb Space Telescope and even more powerful orbiting instruments that may follow.
  • Daily Mail – Jonathan O’Callaghan: Atlast (literally)! Nasa to build the world’s most powerful telescope  – and it could be our key to finding alien life ; About the Atlast, or Advanced Telescope Large-Aperture Space Telescope and whew! that’s a big name to concoct for acronym’s sake. Not much deep reporting but worth a look for its pictures, as expected from a  Daily Mail science story.

Grist for the Mill: TMT press release ; Giant Magellan Telescope press release ; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Press Release ;



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