Have you ever sat in your backyard and stared up at all the stars in the night
sky with complete wonderment?  Do you think about all the mystery and
marvel that “outer space” has to offer?  Do you wish that all that amazing
stuff out there in the universe would appear so close that it was like you could
almost touch it?

Well, people for thousands of years have had the same thoughts and
questions.  The first telescope was developed in 1608 in The Netherlands.  
This was over 400 years ago!  Since then, many scientists – from Galileo
Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton to those at NASA today – have been trying “to
build a better telescope” to get a closer look at the skies and answer all those
questions about the universe.

Today, the Hubble Telescope has become one of the greatest scientific
instruments and telescopes in history.  Last year, the Hubble Space Telescope
celebrated its 20th Birthday!

About the Hubble Space Telescope
Most telescopes you have seen could probably be held with your hands.  
Maybe you have been able to use one of those telescopes that mounts on a
large tripod stand.  Or, maybe you have been lucky enough to visit an
Observatory and have had the opportunity to look through a really big and
powerful telescope.  Well, the Hubble Space Telescope far surpasses any of
these telescopes.

What makes the Hubble Telescope so special is that it is both a telescope AND
a spacecraft because it orbits the Earth about 353 miles above the surface!  
The Hubble Telescope was launched in 1990.  It is about the size of a large
school bus and is equal to the weight of two full-grown elephants.  It can
make a full trip around the Earth every 97 minutes... that’s about 5
miles/second or 18,000 miles/hour!!

The Hubble Telescope operates using the same basic design as the very first
reflecting telescope that was created by Isaac Newton back in the 1600’s.  It
uses large mirrors to reflect and focus light (Hubble’s largest mirror is almost
8 feet long) in order to make objects that are really far away seem really
close.  Since Hubble is already over 350 miles above the Earth’s surface and
with such big mirrors, its no wonder that its been able to produce hundreds
of thousands of amazing photographs of the universe.  

Amazing Hubble Discoveries
Over the past 20 years, Hubble has taken over 570,000 pictures and
discovered over 30,000 different celestial objects, such as planets, stars,
comets, galaxies, and asteroids.  It has discovered many other galaxies, areas
in space where new planets are forming, and have found planets outside of
our galaxy.

One of the biggest discoveries Hubble has helped scientists with is
determining a more exact age of our universe.  With all the scientific data
Hubble is bringing us, scientists have now determined that the universe is
almost 14 Billion years old.

The Future of Hubble
Over the past 20 years, several “service missions” have occurred to upgrade
and conduct maintenance on the massive telescope.  The most recent
maintenance visit to Hubble was in 2009, which improved its cameras,
spectrographs, special scientific instruments, and other critical components.  
With this latest “tune-up,” Hubble will last through at least 2013.  
Nevertheless, the telescope’s parts will eventually stop working and the
spacecraft will slowly fall out of its orbit around the Earth.  Even when Hubble
becomes out of service, the amount of data and photographs it has provided
will keep scientists busy for many more years making lots of amazing scientific

What You’ll Need to Get Started (you should be able to get these items at a
hardware store or even have some of them around your house)
·        2 converging (convex)lenses of different sizes
·        2 mailing tubes (these will be your telescoping tubes)
·        manila file folder
·        scissors
·        knife or saw
·        glue
·        1 white poster board
·        red and black tape
Getting Ready:
1.        When buying the convex lenses, one will need to be smaller than the
other.  Additionally, the larger lens cannot be larger than the largest mailing
2.        When obtaining the mailing tubes, one will need to be smaller than the
other.  Their size should be such that the smaller tube will slide into the larger

SAFETY WARNING:  Since you will be using a knife and scissors, make
sure you have an adult present before you begin assembling.
1.        To determine the length of the mailing tubes:  The mailing tubes
will be the body of the telescope with the smaller one sliding inside the
larger one.  The length of the assembled telescope will be a little longer
than the sum of the focal lengths of the two lenses.  Add the value of
the focal lengths of the short and long lens together.  Divide that length
by two and then add another inch.  Write down this number because
you will use it the next step.
2.        Making the telescoping tubes:  Cut both of the tubes to that
length you just determined with a knife or saw.
3.        Preparing the lenses and frames:  Use the scissors to cut out
two circles from the manila folder that are the same size as the diameter
of the mailing tube.  These circle frames will mount and center the lenses
on the tube.  With a knife, cut out circles that are slightly smaller than the
diameter of the lenses in the center of the paper frame circle.  Glue the lenses
to the center of the frame.  The shorter focal length lens will be the eyepiece.  
Glue that framed lens to the end of the smaller tube.  Glue the other framed
lens to the end of the larger tube.
    4.        Assembling all the pieces:  Slide the two cardboard tubes
    together.  You have now assembled a simple refracting telescope.  Look
    through the eyepiece of your telescope and focus it on a distant object.  
    Slide the two cardboard tubes in and out until you have a clear image.
    5.        Use the red and black tape to make stripes on the white
    posterboard (see illustration on the left) to use as a chart.
    6.        Make sure your eyepiece can slide at least 1 inch in and out for
    focusing purposes.  Measure the distance between your concave and
    diagonal mirrors repeatedly before you tighten your screws.

Building a Simple Telescope (for younger age children)
·        a sheet of thin black cardboard
·        star stickers or glitter glue or silver and gold pens
·        scissors
·        pencil
·        sticky tape
·        pin and or toothpick

1.        Roll a small sheet of black cardboard to form a cylinder and tape it
securely.  This cylinder will form your day-time telescope.
2.        Then, cover one end of the telescope with black cardboard.  We did
this by tracing around the outer edge of the cylinder, cutting out the exact
shape and taping it securely to the end.  Try to ensure that no gaps are left
around the edge because you need to block out all light for maximum effect.
3.        Hand the telescope over to your little one for some thorough
decorating with glitter and star stickers.
4.        Once the decorating is complete, show your child how to prick holes
into the cardboard at the very end of the telescope.  For best results use a
pin and a toothpick so that the holes are of different sizes.
5.        Retrieve pin and toothpick from your child before they get completely
carried away.  Then, have them point their telescope to a source of light
(window, lamp etc) and they will be able to see the stars!
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Keep reading to see a
couple of hands-on
activities. Plus: Here’s a
cool space game that
includes the Hubble
Space Telescope.
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