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Gallery: Giants of Earth and Space

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Old 10-02-2008
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Gallery: Giants of Earth and Space
: Photo courtesy H. RaabOn Oct. 2, 1608, officials in the Netherlands pondered over a patent application. It was submitted by spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey for a "device by means of which all things at a very great distance can be seen as if they were nearby." This is the earliest known record of a telescope. A few months later, scientist Galileo Galilei would get his hands on one.Initially telescopes were simple, handheld gadgets made by combining a few small lenses of ground glass, housed in tubes of wood about as long as a man's arm. But now, 400 years later, the world's largest telescopes require footholds on great mountains and tons of iron and steel to support the giant mirrors that allow scientists to see astoundingly vast distances across space.In a speech to astronomers in June 2008, author Dava Sobel asserted that looking through telescopes is some of the finest work that humans do as a species. Here's a glimpse at that work, with a few images produced by the ten largest ground-based optical telescopes. You can also send us your own photos taken of or through telescopes.Gran Telescopio CanariasCurrently, the largest ground-based telescope is the Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, located on one of the Canary Islands, La Palma, home to several telescopes. GTC has a 10.4-meter mirror, formed by 36 custom-made hexagonal components, each engineered to within a millimeter to fit together perfectly. To tell them apart during construction, each segment was...

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