The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) has been in regular operation for twenty five years now, and it is a mainstay of our scientific efforts.
There are two questions I get about it all the time. What good is a relatively small (1.8 meter aperture) telescope in the days of giant telescopes and space telescopes? And, related to that question… what actually has the VATT accomplished?
The answer to the first is simple. Discoveries are made with small telescopes, and then confirmed or studied in depth with big telescopes.
If you think about it, that shouldn’t be surprising. Rarely can you afford to “take a chance” with a big telescope on observing something that may or may not turn out to be interesting, because there is so much competition for observing time on those telescopes. Astronomers have to write up detailed proposals well in advance of when they want to use those telescopes. A committee will go over all of them, to ration out the time only to the small fraction that show the most likelihood of getting useful results. That’s only logical; but it means that they miss out of making unexpected discoveries. Instead, telescopes where time is not quite a precious get to make the first stabs at surveys, or long term projects, or just plain wild ideas that may turn out to be fruitful.
But in addition, as you can see with some of the success stories from the VATT, there are actually a variety of observations that small telescopes can do better than big telescopes… due to their larger field of view, for example.
To answer the second question, what has the VATT actually accomplished so far, we’ve put together a little four-page flyer to distribute at our talks and events. And as our telescope is also a wonderful symbol of the message we want to convey here at this Sacred Space Astronomy site, it occurs to me that our readers here might be interested in reading about what it’s all about, as well.
(And remember… your paid membership to this site helps support the science we are doing here, as well as our education and public outreach programs!)VATT Flyer