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What Is a Telescope Imager?

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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Successfully locating and viewing dazzling astronomical phenomena through a telescope may compel stargazers to record images for reference or enjoyment. To be able to take a picture using a telescope like a large telephoto lens calls for the use of a special piece of technology. This is called a telescope imager, and it usually connects to the scope eyepiece. Commonly a small, camera lens-shaped device, it may network with a computer by cord and jack, such as a universal serial bus (USB). A telescope imager can use digital imaging technology to capture light information and render it for digital electronic processing. It can sometimes add an extra layer of customization through the use of light-manipulating filters.

When a telescope imager links a telescope of whatever sophistication to a computer system, it essentially translates optical information into electronic information. Once digitized, the image can be processed using a wide assortment of digital manipulation techniques. These might include resizing, color management, or convenient transfer across numerous electronic devices like computers or phones. More scientifically, digitizing an image can permit analysis by using thin-film filters.

These can tease apart light wavelengths to conduct other types of analyses, such as temperature or infrared information. The many capabilities of such filters multiply the cosmic insights obtainable through telescope tubes. Similar imagers are used with microscopes, as well.

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Telescopes serve a wide range of users, from the household hobbyist to the most exacting scientific research facility. A range of telescope imager technologies suit these contexts. From small, affordable electronics to larger, more high-tech component design, technologies can offer almost any desired degree of control. These differences can result in images of greater or lesser precision, depending on the scale of the equipment. Some products also come with their own image-processing software to make the procedure more user-friendly or scientifically precise.

Astrophotography, or the imaging of stars and other interstellar phenomena, may rely on the sensitive imaging capabilities of a charge coupled device (CCD). This is the light-digitizing chip that also works in many digital cameras. Other measures can include ultraviolet imaging, eclipse photography, or hydrogen-alpha photography of the sun. Using a telescope imager requires a certain amount of practice in order to balance all the factors of lens, film speed, exposure, and composition.

Additionally, imaging may call for other special procedures. Telescopes may require the use of a dedicated eyepiece to reorient images for terrestrial viewing. Special photographic techniques aid in capturing different types of stellar phenomena. Safety measures must be observed when photographing potentially hazardous views of eclipses or solar events. With experience and caution,capturing vivid images from telescopes can change one's definition of the big picture.

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