Professor Frederick Walter
Department of Physics and Astronomy
7:30 pm Room 001 ESS Building
Friday, November 2, 2007

What Big Eyes You Have!

The telescope is the basic instrument used by observational astronomers. Telescopes collect and focus light. The concept is simple; the implementations can be very complex. Since the emissions of stars, galaxies, and planets are not confined to visible light, we also construct telescopes that work at wavelengths from X-rays and Gamma rays to radio waves. Telescopes are found on the surface of the Earth, on mountaintops, in Earth orbit, and drifting through the Solar System. Telescopes range from small spotter scopes (diameters of an inch or less) to the 10 meter diameter Keck reflectors, and there are plans to build telescope with 100 meter diameter mirrors. The result is a bewildering assortment of technology all devoted to the single-minded pursuit of capturing the elusive photon.

In the next of the popular series Astronomy Open Night, Prof. Fred Walter will remind us what a telescope really is and how it came to be. After an historical overview of the tools of observational astronomy, Dr. Walter will describe how the state of the art in telescopy has advanced since the time of Galileo. Plans for the next generation instruments will be described.

Dr. Walter, a resident of East Setauket, studies star birth, stellar weather, and star death using the CHANDRA and NEWTON X-ray Observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, and telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. He has been a Professor of Astronomy at Stony Brook since 1989.