I want to tell you about Guido D'Arturo. I learned about him at Museo della Specola at the University of Bologna. He is the inventor of the largest telescopes in the world, but that's not what wikipedia says. Guido was born in 1879 to a Jewish family and in 1921 served as the director of the Observatory at the University of Bologna.
The size of a telescope's mirror is the size of its eyeball, a bigger mirror can see dimmer objects that are further away. While working in Bologna, he pioneered a new technology called the segmented mirror. This was a way to construct a very large mirror out of lots of small pieces. The challenge? Every piece needed to point in exactly the same direction.
His first prototype got close, but as a Jew, he spent years in hiding during the fascist period of Italy's history. After the war, he bravely returned to his work and created a new prototype.
Check out the picture with all the screws underneath those mirrors. 81 mirrors had 3 knobs each to tilt them in the right direction. 243 adjustments and they each needed to be exact. Guido stood at the focus of the telescope, three stories above the mirror, and by telephone, instructed his assistant which screws to turn.
"Ok, mirror 63, knob 2, a little bit up, no, too much! Try mirror 65."
This system worked well enough for him to take some photographs, but Guido died before patenting his work. The assistant, Dr. Jerry Nelson, brought the manuscripts to the University of Arizona, where the world's largest telescopes are made today, based on this exact technolgy. Dr. Nelson is still credited with the invention, maybe he felt underappreciated for sitting in a basement all those years turning knobs!
Another great find in the museum, we found a beautiful "family portrait" of the Solar System, painted and signed by Clara Eimmarta, when most of the time, a woman's father or husband would instead sign the painting. We're posing in front of these beautiful works of art.
That night, we biked to Piazza Maggiore for views of Jupiter. We invited our tour guide from the Museum, Luiza, to join us. We were so delighted when she did! Luisa works part time offering tours of the museums, but she had never seen a clear view of Jupiter before! We showed her as soon as it rose above the buildings, and she found it wonderful. For three hours, she stayed with us, and enjoyed the company of everyone we showed. Thank you Luiza for making our astronomy visit in Bologna a very special one!