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Space Telescopes

The best known and biggest orbiting optical telescope is the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which has an 8 ft (2.4 m) primary mirror and five major instruments for examining various characteristics of distant bodies. After a much publicized problem with the focusing of the telescope and the installation of a package of corrective optics in 1993, the HST has proved to be the finest of all telescopes ever produced. The data collected from HST is of such a high quality that researchers can solve problems that have been in question for years, often with a single photograph. The resolution of the HST is 0.02 arc seconds, close to the theoretical limit since there is no atmospheric distortion, and a factor of around twenty times better than was previously possible. An example of the significant improvement in imaging that space-based systems have given is the Doradus 30 nebula, which prior to the HST was thought to have consisted of a small number of very bright stars. In a photograph taken by the HST it now appears that the central region has over 3,000 stars.

Another advantage of using a telescope in orbit is that the telescope can detect wavelengths such as the ultraviolet and various portions of the infrared, which are absorbed by the atmosphere and not detectable by ground-based telescopes.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Swim bladder (air bladder) to ThalliumTelescope - Resolution, Overcoming Resolution Limitations, Space Telescopes, Adaptive Optics, Recording Telescope Data, Modern Optical Telescopes - Operation of a telescope, Types of telescope, Alternative wavelengths