A Second Chance At First Light: The Isaac Newton Telescope at 50
















When The Queen inaugurated the Isaac Newton Telescope on 1 December 1967, its 98-inch mirror made it the fourth-largest reflector telescope in the world.

“It is often said that our most brilliant young men are tempted to leave the country and join the brain drain because of the lack of first-class equipment for them to work with here,” she said.“The Isaac Newton Telescope is a move to counter this in so far as astronomy is concerned.”

Thanks to the likes of Sir Bernard Lovell, post-war Britain was certainly at the cutting edge of radio astronomy and theoretical astrophysics, but optical astronomy was another story: as the then-Astronomer Royal Sir Richard Woolley put it the day before the Queen arrived, the INT would enable British astronomers to once again “get into the business of studying very faint and interesting objects without begging time from the Americans”.

Except, it didn’t quite work out like that...

Full article published in BBC Sky at Night Magazine, #151, December 2017.