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This is a book I read in the 70's, but it could have been written at an earlier time.

In this story, there was a technology that could reach out into space and view the universe from remote locations. The views were so detailed that, for instance, the scope could reach out and look back on the Earth, and see what was there in the past.

There were multiple levels of this technology that could reach further and further out, and still view with amazing detail.

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    Certainly not what you are looking for, but the Martians in Kurd Laßwitz "On Two Planets" (1897) had a "telescope" that was able to retrieve light from its way into outer space and make it visible on a screen (so the further they reached out, the further into the past they could see). In the (fairly substantial and not very well known) novel this was used in a Martian court trial to clear the human defendants of their alleged crime. Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 7:05
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    Even though it's not the story I'm trying to find, it does sound interesting. I'll add that to my reader list. Thank you!
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 22:32

5 Answers 5

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Is this Macroscope (1969) by Piers Anthony...?

A group of earthlings begins an exploration of the unknown when they enter the Macroscope, a doorway through time and space

Front cover of "Macroscope" (1969) by Piers Anthony.

From Wikipedia:

The central plot device is the "macroscope", a large crystal that can be used to focus a newly discovered type of particle, the "macron". Macrons are not subject to many of the effects that interfere with light, and as a result the macroscope can focus on any location in space-time with exceptional clarity, producing what is essentially a telescope of infinite resolution in the space-time continuum. The macroscope has been built into a solar-orbiting space station where scientists visit to book time on the device. Using it, they are able to explore space as never before.

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    I had discovered this one when I was doing my Google due diligence. It is another that sounds interesting enough to add to the reader list, but I'm pretty sure it's not the one I'm looking for. Being built into an orbiting space station doesn't fit what I remember. Thank you for the post.
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 22:36
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Not a short story... But in L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth

The humans are using a teleporter they captured, to "Send" then "Retrieve" a camera with perfect optics.

They "send" it two lightyears from a planet. Have it record the planet for a few hours. They are looking for an event that took place about 2 years before (since the light from 2 years ago is just reaching that point in space.) Then "retrieve" it to see what it saw.

They then start adjusting the exact distance (2.05 lightyears, 2.07 light years, etc.) to find and see the event they are looking for that took place on the planet.

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    It's amazing how many stories have a similar theme! This story had the device on a ship and they were able to actively use it, so I don't think this is it, but if nothing else, I'm going to come away from this with a pretty good list of new things to read. Thank you!
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 22:38
  • @iMikla Hmm I viewer on a ship doing the same thing rings a bell, but I cant place it. You might also include in the question that the device was installed on a ship (and since they were on the ship, were thus able to place themselves in front of the light wave of the event they were looking at in the past.)??
    – NJohnny
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 4:54
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It's a short story, but is there any chance you're thinking of Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past"? It involves a Chronoscope, which can see into the past, but is strictly controlled by the government. When a scientist builds his own chronoscope, he finds that it actually can't see more than 120 years into the past due to increasing noise. When the government catches up to him, they explain that, since the Chronoscope can see anywhere in the recent past, it's the ultimate spying mechanism, and that's why they've been suppressing further discovery.

If nothing else, it has a list of similar stories that might lead to the correct answer.

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    I had read this years ago, and while it's not the story I'm looking for, it's well worth another read. Thanks!
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 22:39
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This is a bit of a stretch, but potentially this could be Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's The Light of Other Days

The technology here is the WormCam, it is a remote viewing wormhole that allows one way information travel. The opening scenes show the tech being used to steal political secrets, about 1/3 of the way into the book a demonstration is used of a remote viewing of Saturn eighty light minutes away a huge step up with the technology that then allows for a similar wormhole 'setting' where the location is still on earth, but now looking into the past.

If I restrict the spacelike interval to a couple of metres the rest of the wormhole span becomes timelike...'

And the first demo shows the lab eighty minutes into the past.

The tech scales up several times during the story, in capability and in convenience.

This is absolutely not something you could have read in the 70s being published in the year 2000. But the direct juxtaposition of viewing remote objects in space and then the past made this seem a potential match.

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    It was definitely in the 70's that I read the story. I wasn't aware of this story and I thought I had read all of Clark's stuff. My list of new things to read is growing. :-) Thank you!
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 22:41
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I'm pretty sure this is not it, since it doesn't match much of your description, but could you be thinking of "I See You" by Damon Knight, perhaps mixed with one of the other answers here? "I See You" was published in the 70s, and involves a time viewer that can see the past, but it doesn't involve doing so from space.

The rest of your description really reminds me of The Light of Other Days (as per @Jonita's answer), but that's obviously too late for when you remember reading it. But if you were conflating two different (but similar) stories, that could explain it.

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  • While these don't sound like what I remember, they do sound interesting. I wish I could remember more of the story line, but the details of the device is pretty clear. Thank you!
    – Zzzzz
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 18:10

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