Gemini Preprint #41

The Revolution in Telescope Aperture

C.M. Mountain and F. C. Gillett
Gemini Observatory, 670 N. A'ohoku Place, Hilo HI 96720


The 40 years that have elapsed since the opening of the Kitt Peak National Observatory have seen several revolutions in astronomy. One such revolution that is often not recognized is the exponential growth in the total collecting area of large telescopes. This revolution, although ultimately driven by curiousity, has come about because of advances in computers, materials and fabrication techniques -- these advances have facilitated the construction of telescopes that are not just bigger, but better as well. The enormous growth in ground-based observational capabilities that will become available over the next decade, combined with future generations of space-based telescopes, should contribute to dramatic changes in our understanding of the Universe. The first hints of this new understanding are already beginning to emerge, giving new directions to future telescope builders.

Appears in Nature.

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Ruth A. Kneale / / January 7, 1999