Planetariums in Astronomy

Planetarium in astronomy

Planetariums in Astronomy - The First Planetariums

Looking back through the ages, it seems as if the first type of planetariums in astronomy was created by Archimedes. That is more than 2000 years ago. Even though it was a primitive design, it was thought to be able to predict the movement of the sun, moon, and the planets.

More recently, planetariums in astronomy are large domed buildings, like a theatre of sorts, where scenes of the stars and planets are projected against the ceiling to create a simulation of the different areas of the universe.

Now, what would the kids do if you had one of these devices at your home? Maybe a smaller version that can be used in their bedrooms, or somewhat more epic for use in the den. This could be another excellent way to increase their love for astronomy and therefore be a fun way to learn about outer space.

Solar System Facts

Here are some interesting facts about our solar system and galaxy:

  • Our solar system is about 4.6 billion years old
  • We have 8 planets in our solar system
  • The inner planets are smaller and consist mostly of rocks and metal. They are called the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Earth, Venus, and Mars).
  • The outer planets are large and consists mostly of gases. They are called the gas giants (Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune).
  • Since 2008 we also have several dwarf planets (Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea.)
  • The Sun contains 99.86% of all the known mass in the universe.
  • The biggest volcano discovered in the solar system is on Mars. It is 374 miles wide and 16 miles high.
  • The biggest valley in the solar system is also on Mars. It is about 2500 miles long. That is more than 10 times that of the Grand Canyon.
  • Our galaxy is called the Milky Way.
  • The closest star to the earth after the sun is Proxima Centauri.
  • The are approximately 100 billion solar systems in the Milky Way.
the milky way

The Milky Way

Our galaxy in which our solar system and planets reside is called the Milky Way. The name was derived from Greek and Latin where it means the milky circle. The reason for the name is because it almost appears to be made of a single white band of light that can be seen in the night sky.

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy and is one of the billions of galaxies that make up the universe. It is predicted that it contains between 220 and 400 billion stars and 100 billion planets. These are just predictions as it is as of yet not entirely possible to see every galaxy and star individually. Looking at the vastness of space, it seems like it will take a very long time for us to learn all about our universe.

The centre of the Milky Way is assumed to be a supermassive black hole and is known asĀ Sagittarius A.

Telescopes in Astronomy

Telescope in Astronomy

The First Telescopes

Telescopes in astronomy. Humankind has always been fascinated by the stars, the moon, and the planets. However, it was only in 1608 that the first telescope was patented and only a select few could look at the night sky like never before. A year later Galileo Galilei built his own, much-improved telescope. With about 20x magnification, it would help him discover some previously unknown facts about our solar system.

The first large reflector telescope was built in 1789 and was about 12 meters long. This large telescope was built in the United Kingdom and based on Newton’s reflector telescope. It was called the Herschelian Telescope.

Reflectors vs Refractors

The difference between these two is basically in the names. A reflector uses mirrors to reflect an image back towards your eye. The telescope usually has a hole at the one end and a bowl-shaped mirror at the other side. The light reflects off the bowl and through to the eyepiece.

Refractors use lenses that gather light that is then sent to the eyepiece. At the eyepiece the image is magnified and for you to see. This means that refractors bend light.

A third option is also available and is called a Catadioptric telescope and use a combination of mirrors and lenses to form an image.

Reflector vs Refractor Infographic

Types of Telescopes

Many types of telescopes are in use by science to explore the universe. Not all telescopes work by using normal light. The best way to classify telescopes in astronomy is by the light wavelengths that they detect. Here is a list of the types of telescopes in use:

  • Radio Telescopes
  • Microwave Telescopes
  • Infrared Telescopes
  • Optical Telescopes
  • Ultaviolet Telescopes
  • X-Ray Telescopes

The wavelengths of these telescopes start at about 0.01 nm in X-Ray telescopes, going up all the way to a kilometer in radio telescopes.

The Hubble Telescope

Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope is probably one of the best-known telescopes in use today. It was first launched in 1990 and is still in use today, almost 30 years later. The Hubble, named after the American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, use a mirror of almost 8 feet.

What makes the Hubble so special is that it is equipped to be used as 4 different types of telescopes. Ultraviolet, visible, near infrared, and even regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Another interesting fact about the Hubble is that it is the only space telescope that was designed to be maintained by astronauts in space.