There are many types of telescopes in the world today. Some are super massive modern marvels and others are just your regular every day telescope that we have become accustomed to. Ever since I was a boy I was fascinated with space, the stars, and telescopes and the wonders that lay in our universe waiting to be discovered. I had always dreamed of having one of my own but they were always too expensive, these days that isn’t as much of an obstacle, as technology advances things become easier to access, but in the era of the internet and the growing wealth of knowledge combined with the many DIY resources available to us today – nothing should be an obstacle when you can make your own!
Nothing was an obstacle for the explorers of the past, they were able to fashion their own rudimentary telescopes with nothing but some ingenuity and the craving to explore the cosmos that they barely understood at the time. So lets go through a little bit of a brief history of telescopes, and then explore how you can create your own, fueled with some inspiration from all of these epic home made telescopes!!
What Is A Telescope?
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation (such as visible light). The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century, using glass lenses. They found use in terrestrial applications and astronomy.
Within a few decades, the reflecting telescope was invented, which used mirrors. In the 20th century many new types of telescopes were invented, including radio telescopes in the 1930s and infrared telescopes in the 1960s. The word telescope now refers to a wide range of instruments detecting different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and in some cases other types of detectors.
The word “telescope” (from the Greek τῆλε, tele “far” and σκοπεῖν, skopein “to look or see”; τηλεσκόπος, teleskopos “far-seeing”) was coined in 1611 by the Greek mathematician Giovanni Demisiani for one of Galileo Galilei’s instruments presented at a banquet at the Accademia dei Lincei. In the Starry Messenger Galileo had used the term “perspicillum”.
When looking into anything, it is always important (and fun!) to study the history of it to understand where it came from (especially if you want to make one of your own!) then you can build upon that knowledge and make your own freaking awesome telescopes! If nothing else, impress your friends with your vast knowledge lol. Lets take a brief look at the history of telescopes and the early versions of them.
The earliest recorded working telescopes were the refracting telescopes that appeared in the Netherlands in 1608. Their development is credited to three individuals: Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen, who were spectacle makers in Middelburg, and Jacob Metius of Alkmaar. Galileo heard about the Dutch telescope in June 1609, built his own within a month, and greatly improved upon the design in the following year.
The idea that the objective, or light-gathering element, could be a mirror instead of a lens was being investigated soon after the invention of the refracting telescope. The potential advantages of using parabolic mirrors—reduction of spherical aberration and no chromatic aberration—led to many proposed designs and several attempts to build reflecting telescopes. In 1668, Isaac Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope, of a design which now bears his name, the Newtonian reflector.
The invention of the achromatic lens in 1733 partially corrected color aberrations present in the simple lens and enabled the construction of shorter, more functional refracting telescopes. Reflecting telescopes, though not limited by the color problems seen in refractors, were hampered by the use of fast tarnishing speculum metal mirrors employed during the 18th and early 19th century—a problem alleviated by the introduction of silver coated glass mirrors in 1857, and aluminized mirrors in 1932. The maximum physical size limit for refracting telescopes is about 1 meter (40 inches), dictating that the vast majority of large optical researching telescopes built since the turn of the 20th century have been reflectors. The largest reflecting telescopes currently have objectives larger than 10 m (33 feet).
The 20th century also saw the development of telescopes that worked in a wide range of wavelengths from radio to gamma-rays. The first purpose built radio telescope went into operation in 1937. Since then, a tremendous variety of complex astronomical instruments have been developed.
So who was first? Early in the seventeenth century, Galileo purchased one of Lippershey’s “spyglasses”. He made significant improvements and modified it for his use in astronomy. He gave it the name “telescope,” (with help from Giovanni Demisiani) a composite of two Greek words for “far” and “to see.” No one else had foreseen that possibility, and it was Galileo who became the first human being to view Saturn’s rings and to witness the moons of Jupiter, identifying and describing them as such. So it might as well have been Galileo!
Well, since we talked about the brief history of telescopes, and we are showcasing some awesome homemade telescope designs, it seems only fitting that we start with a few of Galileo’s own telescopes since his were homemade after all (and some of the first), albiet centuries ago lol. They are still brilliant examples of what someone can create!
Some fun facts about Gilileo’s Telescope:
- The original design Galileo Galilei came up with in 1609 is commonly called a Galilean telescope.
- It used a convergent (plano-convex) objective lens and a divergent (plano-concave) eyepiece lens.
- The design had no intermediary focus, thus resulting in an non inverted and upright image.
- Galileo’s best telescope magnified objects about 30 times.
- The Galilean telescope could view the phases of Venus, and was able to see craters on the Moon and four moons orbiting Jupiter.
Onward, to the epic homemade telescope inspirations! Check out these awesome examples of next level home made telescopes (that double as science art!) made by DIY’ers just like you! Get Inspired!
Computer controlled too! If you want more pics of this epic father/son observatory build project, here they are!
They didn’t make the telescope, but thats ok, its a damn fine observatory!! More pics of this builds progress can be found here.
Karl Jansky‘s Amazing Homemade Radio Telescope (First One Ever Built)
Need more homemade telescope inspiration? How about some instructions to help you build your own? Check out these epic DIY resources!
How To Make A Telescope
If you are a DIY geek (like most of us lol) then you probably want to run out and build your own telescope right now! Well here are some resources you can use to make your own magnificent cosmos exploration device!
How to Build a Refracting Telescope: Astronomy
Brief video overview/explanation of how to construct a simple refracting telescope with magnifying glasses and a cardboard tube
How To Build A Telescope
Another beginner homemade cardboard tube + magnifying glasses telescope
Video of a super simple homemade telescope build with household items, pretty low power – but still cool because its very MacGuyver-esque haha
From beginner project videos to something huge haha. Interesting talk on how this guy built a 32″ Relay Telescope and the Observatory that houses it. (needless to say, this is a very big project haha)
Maybe you just want to improve a current telescope you have, maybe give these a try!
Good project to work on with the kids 🙂
Ok, this isn’t an actual working telescope, BUT it looks awesome! This is just to get your creativity going and let your imagination run wild with ideas. Imagine if you applied this style to another telescope tutorial? Working steampunk telescope? Someone go make it happen!! (actually someone may have beat you to it lol – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an awesome one too!)
Title says it all haha. Cheap Radio Telescope Making Guide!
Lots of details and resources to help you along your telescope making journey!
Well thats all folks – I hope that this resource helps someone who wants to get into stargazing, or anyone that is already into astronomy that wants to take it to the next level and build themselves an awesome telescope (DIY FTW!). Hope it helped some learn a little bit about the history of telescopes as well!
What was your favorite homemade telescope design? Have you ever attempted making a telescope? Have any tips on using a telescope? Let us know in the comments below or in the forums! Thanks for Reading!