Newtonian telescope


Newtonian telescope
Newtonian Telescope

The Newtonian telescope is a type of reflecting telescope invented by the British scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), using a concave primary mirror and a flat diagonal secondary mirror. Newton’s first reflecting telescope was completed in 1668 and is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope.[1] The Newtonian telescope's simple design makes them very popular with amateur telescope makers.[2]

Contents

History

Newton’s idea for a reflecting telescope was not a new one. Galileo Galilei and Giovanni Francesco Sagredo had discussed using a mirror as the image forming objective soon after the invention of the refracting telescope,[3] and others, such as Niccolò Zucchi, claimed to have experimented with the idea as far back as 1616.[4] Newton may even have read James Gregory's 1663 book Optica Promota which described reflecting telescope designs using parabolic mirrors[5] (a telescope Gregory had been trying unsuccessfully to build).[6]

A replica of Newton's second reflecting telescope that he presented to the Royal Society in 1672.[7]

Newton built his reflecting telescope because he suspected that it could prove his theory that white light is composed of a spectrum of colors.[8] Color distortion (chromatic aberration) was the primary fault of refracting telescopes of Newton's day, and there were many theories as to what caused it. During the mid 1660s with his work on the theory of colour, Newton came to the conclusion that this defect was caused by the lens of the refracting telescope behaving the same as prisms he was experimenting with, breaking white light into a rainbow of colors around bright astronomical objects.[9][10] If this was true, then chromatic aberration could be eliminated by building a telescope that did not use a lens – a reflecting telescope.

In late 1668 Isaac Newton built his first reflecting telescope. He chose an alloy (speculum metal) of tin and copper as the most suitable material for his objective mirror. He later devised means for shaping and grinding the mirror and may have been the first to use a pitch lap[11] to polish the optical surface. He chose a spherical shape for his mirror instead of a parabola to simplify construction; even though it would introduce spherical aberration, it would still correct chromatic aberration. He added to his reflector what is the hallmark of the design of a Newtonian telescope, namely a secondary diagonally mounted mirror near the primary mirror's focus to reflect the image at a 90° angle to an eyepiece mounted on the side of the telescope. This unique addition allowed the image to be viewed with minimal obstruction of the objective mirror. He also made the tube, mount, and fittings. Newton's first version had a mirror diameter of 1.3 inches and a focal ratio of f/5.[12] He found that the telescope did work without color distortion and that he could see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter and the crescent phase of the planet Venus with it. Newton's friend Isaac Barrow showed a second telescope to a small group from the Royal Society of London at the end of 1671. They were so impressed with it that they demonstrated it to Charles II in January of 1672. Newton was admitted as a fellow of the society in the same year.

Like Gregory before him, Newton found it hard to construct an effective reflector. It was difficult to grind the speculum metal to a regular curvature. The surface also tarnished rapidly; the consequent low reflectivity of the mirror and also its small size meant that the view through the telescope was very dim compared to contemporary refractors. Because of these difficulties in construction, the Newtonian reflecting telescope was initially not widely adopted. It wasn't until 50 years later in 1721 that John Hadley showed a much-improved model to the Royal Society.[13] Hadley had solved many of the problems of making a parabolic mirror. His Newtonian with a mirror diameter of 6 inches (~15 cm) compared favorably with the large aerial refracting telescopes of the day.[14] The aperture of reflecting telescopes would subsequently grow rapidly, with designs doubling in aperture about every 50 years.[15]

Advantages of the Newtonian design

Newtonian optical assembly showing the tube (1), the primary mirror (2), and the secondary diagonal mirror support (also called a "spider support") (3).
  • They are free of chromatic aberration found in refracting telescopes.
  • Newtonian telescopes are usually less expensive for any given aperture than comparable quality telescopes of other types.
  • Since there is only one surface that needs to be ground and polished into a complex shape, overall fabrication is far simpler than other telescope designs (Gregorians, cassegrains, and early refractors had two surfaces that need "figuring". Later achromatic refractor objectives had four surfaces that have to be figured).
  • A short focal ratio can be more easily obtained, leading to wider field of view.
  • The eyepiece is located at the top end of the telescope. Combined with short f-ratios this can allow for a much more compact mounting system, reducing cost and adding to portability.

Disadvantages of the Newtonian design

  • Newtonians, like other reflecting telescope designs using parabolic mirrors, suffer from coma, an off-axis aberration which causes imagery to flare inward and towards the optical axis (stars towards edge of the field of view take on a "comet-like" shape). This flare is zero on-axis, and is linear with increasing field angle and inversely proportional to the square of the mirror focal ratio, equal to the mirror focal length divided by the mirror aperture. The formula for third order tangential coma is 3θ / 16F², where θ is the angle off axis to the image in radians and F is the focal ratio. Newtonians with a focal ratio of f/6 or lower (f/5 for example) are considered to have increasingly serious coma for visual or photographic use.[16] Newtonians having a focal ratio of less than f/4 have considerable coma but are the most compact systems, and can still yield beautiful wide-field, low-power imagery.[citation needed] Commercial lenses are also available for Newtonian telescopes that correct for coma from low focal ratio primary mirrors and restore image sharpness over the field.[17][18][19]
A large Newtonian reflector from 1873 with structure to access the eyepiece.
  • Newtonians have a central obstruction due to the secondary mirror in the light path. This obstruction and also the diffraction spikes caused by the support structure (called the spider) of the secondary mirror reduce contrast. Visually, these effects can be reduced by using a two or three-legged curved spider. This reduces the diffraction sidelobe intensities by a factor of about four and helps to improve image contrast, with the potential penalty that circular spiders are more prone to wind-induced vibration. Although a four-legged spider causes less diffraction than a three-legged curved spider, the three-legged curved spider often gives a more aesthetically pleasing view.[citation needed]
  • For portable Newtonians collimation can be a problem. The primary and secondary can get out of alignment from the shocks associated with transportation and handling. This means the telescope may need to be re-aligned (collimated) every time it is set up. Other designs such as refractors and catadioptrics (specifically Maksutov cassegrains) have fixed collimation.
  • The focal plane is at an asymmetrical point and at the top of the optical tube assembly. For visual observing, most notably on equatorial telescope mounts,[20] tube orientation can put the eyepiece in a very poor viewing position, and larger telescopes require ladders or support structures to access it.[21] Some designs provide mechanisms for rotating the eyepiece mount or the entire tube assembly to a better position. For research telescopes, counterbalancing very heavy instruments mounted at this focus has to be taken into consideration.

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Isaac Newton: adventurer in thought, by Alfred Rupert Hall, page 67
  2. ^ Telescope Basics - Mark T. VandeWettering, 2001
  3. ^ Stargazer - By Fred Watson, Inc NetLibrary, Page 108
  4. ^ The Galileo Project > Science > Zucchi, Niccolo
  5. ^ Derek Gjertsen, The Newton handbook, page 562
  6. ^ Isaac Newton By Michael White Page 169
  7. ^ The History of the Telescope By Henry C. King, Page 74
  8. ^ Isaac Newton By Michael White Page 170
  9. ^ Newton thought that there was little that could be done to correct aberration short of making lenses that were f/50 or more."the object-glass of any telescope cannot collect all the rays which come from one point of an object, so as to make them convene at its focus in less room than in a circular space, whose diameter is the 50th part of the diameter of its aperture
  10. ^ Treatise on Optics, p. 112
  11. ^ Reflecting Telescope Optics: Basic Design Theory and Its Historical Development By Ray N. Wilson Published by Springer, 2004 ISBN 3-540-40106-7, 9783540401063.
  12. ^ telescope-optics.net REFLECTING TELESCOPES: Newtonian, two- and three-mirror systems
  13. ^ amazing-space.stsci.edu - Hadley’s Reflector
  14. ^ The complete Amateur Astronomer - John Hadley's Reflector
  15. ^ http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004PASP..116...77R
  16. ^ Sacek, Vladimir (2006-07-14). "8.1.1. Newtonian off-axis aberrations". http://www.telescope-optics.net/newtonian_off_axis_aberrations.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-29. "off-axis performance of the paraboloidal mirror drops so quickly with the increase in relative aperture beyond ~ƒ/6" 
  17. ^ "Baader Multi Purpose Coma Corrector". http://www.baader-planetarium.com/pdf/mpcc_e.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  18. ^ US a coma-correcting meniscus lens 4571036, Gebelein, Rolin J. & David Shafer, "Reflecting telescope with correcting lens", published 02/18/1986 
  19. ^ Knisely, David (2004). "Tele Vue Paracor Coma Corrector for Newtonians" (pdf). Cloudy Nights Telescope Review. http://www.cloudynights.com/documents/paracorr.pdf. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  20. ^ Alexius J. Hebra, The Physics of Metrology: All about Instruments: From Trundle Wheels to Atomic Clocks, page 258-259
  21. ^ Antony Cooke, "Make Time for the Stars: Fitting Astronomy Into Your Busy Life", page 14

References

  • Smith, Warren J., Modern Optical Engineering, McGraw-Hill Inc., 1966, p. 400

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  • Newtonian telescope — Telescope Tel e*scope, n. [Gr. ? viewing afar, farseeing; ? far, far off + ? a watcher, akin to ? to view: cf. F. t[ e]lescope. See {Telegraph}, and { scope}.] An optical instrument used in viewing distant objects, as the heavenly bodies. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Newtonian telescope — Newtonian New*to ni*an, a. Of or pertaining to Sir Isaac Newton, or his discoveries. [1913 Webster] {Newtonian philosophy}, the philosophy of Sir Isaac Newton; applied to the doctrine of the universe as expounded in Newton s Principia, to the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Newtonian telescope — noun reflecting telescope in which the image is viewed through an eyepiece perpendicular to main axis • Syn: ↑Newtonian reflector • Hypernyms: ↑reflecting telescope, ↑reflector …   Useful english dictionary

  • Newtonian telescope — a reflecting telescope in which a mirror or reflecting prism is mounted on the axis near the eyepiece so that the image may be viewed from outside the telescope tube at right angles to the axis. [1755 65] * * * …   Universalium

  • Newtonian telescope — /njuˌtoʊniən ˈtɛləskoʊp/ (say nyooh.tohneeuhn teluhskohp) noun a telescope employing a reflecting parabolic objective mirror. {named after Sir Isaac Newton} …   Australian English dictionary

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