I just finished writing an article about the telescope’s history (you know, with the International Year of Astronomy coming up in 2009). I know that in the astronomy world aperture fever runs wild, but wow, some of these telescopes are just ginormous!! It must have been quite an experience just to operate something like the 72-inch “Leviathan of Parsonstown” — even though telescopes like the Yerkes 40-inch (pictured at right) and Lick 36-inch refractors were much better balanced, which made positioning these scopes much easier.
The largest scope I’ve ever used was the 1.3-meter (51 inches) McGraw-Hill telescope at the MDM observatory on Kitt Peak in Arizona. And during those 5 hours, we chased holes in clouds. It was frustrating more than anything else. The largest scope I’ve continually observed with (well, for a few months) was the 24-inch at the Biosphere 2 center out in Oracle, Arizona. I wonder what it would be like to have constant access to one of those large telescopes. What’s the largest scope you’ve had the opportunity to use?