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Telescope Types


There are several types of telescopes that are used today to study the universe.


Radio telescopes detect noise from radio wavelengths in space. It turns out that objects in space give off radio noise. These telescopes are able to listen to all this noise and process it into information for researchers to study. A radio telescope can produce a picture from an object it is listening to from the noise is picks up from that object.

A radio telescope

A radio telescope

An image that a radio telescope has picked up

An image that a radio telescope has picked up. Image: NASA


X-ray telescopes are used to study mainly the Sun, stars and supernovas. X-ray telescopes work better at very high altitudes on the Earth’s surface, like on top of a very tall mountain where the atmosphere is thinner. They work even better in space. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere interferes with the x-ray signals they receive.

NASA illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.


Gamma ray telescopes are best used at high altitudes like the x-ray telescopes. This is also because gamma ray signals are disrupted and become weaker when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Gamma ray telescopes detect bursts of gamma rays. They help astronomers confirm events in outer space like supernovas, pulsars and black holes.

Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory.  Image: NASA


The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a reflecting telescope and is currently the largest space telescope there is. It is 43 feet long (13.1 meters) and weighs 24,250 pounds (11,000kg). Its reflector is 94.8 inches in diameter (240cm). The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space on April 24, 1990, from the Space Shuttle Discovery. It is still operational. It has had some work performed on it from time to time, such as installing new state-of-the-art cameras. This wonderful telescope has brought a wealth of information to researchers here on Earth. It has taken numerous spectacular pictures of far away galaxies, nebulae, a green space blob, beautiful dying stars (one that looks like a butterfly), and amazing infrared and ultraviolet pictures that show an incredible amount of detail. These pictures have allowed researchers to greatly expand our knowledge of the universe.

The Hubble Space Telescope.  Image: NASA.These are some of the images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

A dying star

The Crab nebula.

The mysterious green space blob.