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What is a giant magnifying glass?

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A giant magnifying glass is a telescope, which is a device that assists in viewing remote objects. Telescopes are used to view celestial bodies, including stars, planets and remote galaxies. Galileo built one of the first telescopes in 1609, improving upon a previous Dutch version. In 1688, the first reflecting telescope was built by Isaac Newton. The design is known as the Newtonian reflector.

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Astronomers use some specialized telescopes. For instance, a neutrino telescope includes a large amount of water or ice that works alongside sensitive instruments to detect light. Some telescopes can observe particles traveling at certain levels of energy. A number of modern telescopes can measure radiation in the farthest regions of space in addition to detecting celestial objects many light years away from Earth.

As of 2014, the Hubble space telescope, launched in 1990, orbits the Earth. The telescope has been responsible for many images and the discovery of celestial objects, including the central star in the Butterfly nebula, which is part of the constellation Scorpius. With its view from space and high-resolution cameras, Hubble has given scientists a deep view of space that previously was not possible. Hubble observations have spurred scientific breakthroughs, including the accurate calculation of the rate at which the universe is expanding. Hubble is not the first telescope but is the biggest and most successful as of August 2014.

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