telescope: Refracting Telescopes

Refracting Telescopes

The first practical telescopes were refracting telescopes produced at the beginning of the 17th cent. By 1610, Galileo had made extensive astronomical use of the simple refractor. The best telescopes of this period had very long focal lengths to minimize the chromatic aberration inherent in the single-element objective. The multielement objective, invented in 1733, allowed the construction of telescopes of large aperture. The art of building refracting telescopes reached a high point in the 19th cent. The largest refractor in existence, with an objective lens 40 in. (102 cm) in diameter, is located at the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis. A 36-in. (91-cm) refractor is located at the Lick Observatory in California and a 33-in. (84-cm) refractor is located at Meudon, France. These telescopes represent the practical limit on the size of a refractor.

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