Science: An Eye High in the Sky

The world's most farsighted telescope will float in space

Ever since Galileo unveiled his first crude optical glass to the elders of Venice in 1609, astronomers have been building bigger and better telescopes. But as they scan the heavens from windswept hilltops, trying to fathom the secrets of the cosmos, nature continually conspires against them.

The stars, of course, are best observed at night. But not just any night. To reveal anything in detail, the skies must be brilliantly clear, something that happens only about half of the time even in the most favorable climates. Moonlight or the glare from cities and highways...

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