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Domes and enclosures

Land-based observatories come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. What is the science behind their look?
Classical observatories like Mount Palomar sport white hemispherical domes. But look on mountaintops and you'll be hard-pressed to find these classic covers on today's giants. Why are modern observatories abandoning the traditional look for sleek, silver alternatives? It's a turbulent question. As it turns out, white paint tends to make a dome's outer surface too cool at night, relative to the ambient air temperature. The result is micro-thermal turbulence around the dome — in other words,...

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