For decades, the Hale telescope on Palomar Mountain in California - with its 17-foot mirror - was the world's most powerful stargazer.
But the Hale has been humbled. On Mauna Kea in Hawaii there now sit the twin Keck telescopes, whose light-gathering surfaces are an astonishing 33 feet in diameter. And the European Very Large Telescope, scheduled for completion in 2003, is even bigger than Keck. This telescope will be capable of detecting light at the 30th magnitude, like seeing the glow of a cigarette in Hawaii - from Boston.
Simply put: The larger the mirror, the more we see.
Seeing. Sometimes it's a struggle. You can't find your glasses - only to discover that they are already on your nose. You just put your keys down. Now you can't see them anyplace.
Trying to find one little lost lamb in the wilderness was a big job. Trying to find one thin coin in the clutter of a home took time, even with the best of eyes, even in the brightest light. Even if you see clearly, which few of us do...
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