Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about 300 billion stars, giving you plenty to look at in our own neighborhood. Many astronomers just aren’t satisfied with this, though, and insist on seeing as far out as technology allows.
Deep space telescopes are a specialized type of equipment that is meant to look beyond our galaxy to the outer reaches of the observable universe. There are untold numbers of galaxies and formations outside of our galaxy waiting to be seen and observed, meaning that each increase in viewing power has an exponential effect on the types of phenomena that can be studied.
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These scopes are well beyond the grasp of the average hobbyist. While you can construct a very large telescope on your own with a little ingenuity, homebuilt scopes will never compare to the instruments available to scientists, universities, and institutions like NASA. The most famous and powerful of these deep space telescopes is the Hubble. Having been in orbit around the Earth for nearly twenty years now, the Hubble has taken incredible pictures of stars being born in addition to photographing a mind-boggling number of galaxies.
Like other deep space telescopes, the Hubble has an amazing sensitivity to light and great resolving power. Much of this relies on computer processing of images. By the time light from such distant objects reaches the earth, even the best telescope isn’t capable of displaying an image the human eye can discern.
Deep space observations have been invaluable to cosmologists, helping them to explain how galaxies are formed and how the universe has evolved since the Big Bang. Some galaxies, like our own, are shaped roughly like spirals, while others have contours more like an ellipse. Studying distant galaxies also increases our chances of one day observing rare, exotic astronomical phenomena: supermassive black holes, gamma ray bursts and perhaps, one day, even evidence of alien civilizations.
Obtaining clear images of distant galaxies often requires a telescope that lives above our planet’s atmosphere.
Celestron telescopes aren’t capable of seeing quite so far, but remain a great choice for hobbyist astronomers.