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Is there a limit to the resolution that a telescope can achieve?

If we had a big enough telescope could you read a newspaper far away in space or is there a limit to the resolution that can be achieved with increasing distance?
Saj Malhi from Greater London (Age 25-34)

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One Response

  1. In theory, if you make your telescope bigger and bigger, the resolution will get better and better – i.e. you will be able to see finer and finer details on whatever you are looking at. So – yes – you could read a newspaper on a distant star. However, the reality would be very different. It would be ENORMOUSLY DIFFICULT to do this. The telescope would be vast (I haven’t calculated this – but bigger than the Earth).
    However, you could consider building a device called an interferometer – you could combine light from different space telescopes in order to synthesise a telescope which is as large as the spacing between the telescopes (and this could be a really big number).

    Is there an ultimate limit? Yes. If you make your telescope really enormous it will eventually start acting more like a microscope – and the smallest details which you will be able to see will be approximately 1 wavelength of light in size (about 0.5 microns, or 0.5 millionths of a meter).

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