Astronomers Invent New Telescope by Tying Telephoto Lenses Together

Illustration for article titled Astronomers Invent New Telescope by Tying Telephoto Lenses Together

A team of Yale astronomers got a little crafty recently. In an attempt to see parts of space that their big fancy telescopes weren't showing them, they tied eight telephoto lenses together to create their own little homemade array. And then, thanks to their new invention, they quickly discovered seven new galaxies.


"These are the same kind of lenses that are used in sporting events like the World Cup. We decided to point them upward instead," said Pieter van Dokkum, chair of Yale's astronomy department, who helped design the telescope. The team decided to call the invention the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, since it resembled the insect's eyes. Meanwhile, a special coating that suppresses internally scattered light made it easier for the telescope to see the diffuse light of the new dwarf galaxies.

The Yale team hopes that their new telescope will help them see all kinds of previously undiscovered celestial objects, including debris caused by galaxies colliding long ago. It all goes to show you don't have to blow up mountains in South America to make exciting new astronomical discoveries. [Yale]


Images via Yale

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I don't understand why they didn't use an array of actual telescopes? The concept of an array telescope is nothing new, and you could probably find refractor telescopes of the same or even bigger size, with astronomy-grade optical coatings, that would be better suited to this kind of thing. So is the innovation here that Canon makes better light-diffusing coatings than everyone else?