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Northwestern University

Interior View

man adjusting telescope eyepiece

The universe may be vast, but many of its secrets have been revealed by an 18.5-inch lens housed within Northwestern’s own Dearborn Observatory. Built by master craftsmen in 1862, the lens was for a time the largest in the world. Its unprecedented resolution enabled researchers to discover hundreds of double stars and nebulae and to measure the precise rate of continental drift. By the early 20th century, the Northwestern observatory had become a hub for major astronomical conferences, drawing attendees such as Edwin Hubble, whose discovery of the ever-expanding nature of the universe may well have been inspired by a talk he heard on campus in 1914. Today, the historic lens rests within a refurbished tube at the observatory, where students, faculty and visitors continue to study the timeless principles of astronomy.

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