"The telescope was not the invention of scientists; rather, it was the product of craftsmen." -- The Galileo Project, Rice University.
Humans, with our improved optical, mechanical and electronic vision now peer out through the entirety of the electomagnetic spectrum back toward 13.7 billion years of history and the view is improving, to the point that the data to come, will be simply overwhelming.
Here are the top ten telescopes that now and in the near future will bring us even more amazing images and data. These telescopes should be household names.
As a passive observer of astronomy I may have been missing something all along. That is, these images are almost as much art as they are science. In other words, what these massive, dedicated sensors detect is energy of varying intensity in a specific slice of the spectrum - Infrared, X-Ray, UV, etc.. But its nothing the naked eye would see if we were capable of laying eyes on the actual event "billions and billions" of light years away. That's where they artestry comes in, i.e. coloring this wavelength red, and that wavelength green, and that other one purple etc. allows us to imagine what it would look like somwhere in a galaxy far, far away. But we don't really know if that supernova is really that beautiful, do we?
Should I feel deceived? Am I missing something? May the Schwartz be with the best answerer.
Great article. Adaptive optics, for earth-based telescopes, were and are a real game changer.
Funny thing is, even using telescopes, our investigations of space are hopelessly limited by speed. In this case, the speed of light. The further out we look, the more what we see has come and gone eons ago.
So yes, using telescopes is a great way of seeing how the universe formed, and of investigating the more or less current status of the very closest star systems, but we're still in this speed straightjacket.
We need that warp drive and those subspace communications channels. Someday in the future, people will wonder how we could be so primitive and limited, with such a compromised view of reality, back in the 21st Century. (Well, early 21st Century anyway. There's hope for the 21st Century yet!)
If you're going to count LSST, you may as well count the Thirty Meter Telescope or the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope. All are not operational yet, but in planning or construction. If you're looking at operational telescopes, you forgot Pan-STARRS, with the largest astronomical cameras in the world.