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Telescope or microscope, which is more powerful?

Telescope or microscope, which is more powerful?

We tend to follow the premise that bigger is better. If within that premise we compare a telescope and a microscope, both giants, who wins?

Yes, it is true that both devices have different functions. With a telescope we search for galaxies or distant stellar bodies (and therefore we seek to enlarge what we see), and for its part with a microscope we seek to see small things on our own planet, in this case not because they are distant but because our eyes have limits.

But power is another story, and although both devices have different functions, they are similar: We want to see things bigger than we can with our own eyes. Let's return the doubt: Telescope or microscope? which is more powerful?

Giant Telescope vs. Giant Microscope: Faces Powered

To answer this question we have Rodney Herring, who runs the microscopy center at the University of Victoria. He tells us about his specialty, microscopes, commenting in this case that the Electron Scanning Holographic Microscope they use is almost 5 meters high and weighs nothing more and nothing less than 6300 kg.

This mastodon can take pictures of a resolution of 35 billionths of a meter, and therefore it is the most powerful microscope in the world. Although any telescope can do the same.

According to Herring, this type of microscope uses electrons to function, but that cannot be done by telescopes, since the images come from far away and these particles will be deflected along the way.

The resolution can be manipulated

However, as Herring says well, samples from a microscope can be manipulated to look better. In fact, if we use laser beams on a sample, we can start from a resolution of 300 nanometers to one of 10 nanometers (we will see much smaller things). And even some electron microscopes can get to the scale of the tomes.

But can a telescope do this?

In this case it seems that astronomers are less concerned with the linear resolution (what we usually call focus to see better small images), and they care more about the angular resolution (the resolution necessary to distinguish two separate objects in the distance, such as two stars for example), which is measured in seconds of arc (1 / 3,600 of a degree).

The famous Hubble telescope for example you can take pictures of less than 0.1 arcseconds, and theEuropean Extremely Large Telescope (currently under construction in Chile) will be able to take images with 0.01 seconds of resolution arc.

Telescope vs. microscope: Comparisons are odious

But let's resolve the question: Based on what the human eye sees, if we compare telescopes and microscopes, which would be more powerful?

According to Mark Neil, optical physicist of the Imperial College From london, a normal human eye has a linear resolution of about 25,000 nanometers and an angular resolution of about 60 arc seconds.

In this case, the microscopes will lead us to an improvement from 25,000 nanometers to 0.035 nanometers (714,000 times better). For his part, a telescope It will take us from 60 arc seconds to 0.01 arc seconds (6,000 better).

Does this mean that a microscope is more powerful than a telescope? NO, well each device seeks to improve a type of resolution.

Going | Popular Science.