The future of astronomy, as seen by PBS News in 1991

An evening pause: Today is the 75th anniversary of the moment astonomers took the lens cap off the Hale Telescope at Palomar, what astronomers call “first light.” In honor of this anniversary, tonight’s evening pause is a somewhat well-done news piece produced by PBS in 1991, describing the state of ground-based astronomy at that time, which was actually another key moment in the history of astronomy. After decades of no advancement following the Hale telescope, the field was about to burst out with a whole new set of telescopes exceeding it significantly, based on new technologies. We today have become accustomed to those new telescopes, but in 1991 they were still incomplete or on the drawing board.

This was also after the launch of Hubble but before it was fixed, so this moment was also a somewhat dark time for astronomy in general. Watching this news piece gives you a sense of history, as seen by those living at that time. It also lets you see some good examples of the standard tropes of reporters as well as some astronomers. They always say this new telescope (whatever and whenever it is) is going to allow us to discover the entire history of the universe, even though it never can, and never will.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.