What is the Difference between Refractor and Reflector Telescopes?

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What is the Difference between Refractor and Reflector Telescopes?


Since humans have lived on earth, they have looked to the evening skies in awe. Although Galileo Galilei did not build the first telescope, he was the first to use one for astronomical observations. Today, many of us still like to peer through a telescope on a clear night to explore the extraordinary heavens. However, unlike in Galileo’s 1600s, we have a multitude of telescopes to choose from. Two of the major types are the refractor and the reflector.


Reflect or Refract. Refractor and reflector telescopes use two different types of mechanisms. In a reflector telescope, light is collected at the telescope’s bottom. A concave mirror, called the primary, performs this task. The primary has a parabolic shape that resembles an arc. This mirror can focus light using a variety of methods. The particular method used, dictates what type of reflecting telescope it is classified as. A refractor telescope utilizes two lenses. One lens, called the objective, is located at one end. The other end contains the eyepiece or ocular lens.

Refractor Factors. Refractor telescopes several advantages. The glass surface contained in the tube is safeguarded from the atmosphere and therefore does not need to be cleaned frequently. In addition, since this tube is protected, other advantages arise. Outside air currents and the influence of temperature changes do not influence the image. As a result, the images are crisper and more balanced than in reflecting telescopes of equal size. Third, reflecting refractor telescopes are more durable. They are less prone to misalignment than reflecting telescopes once they have been initially aligned. The biggest drawback of refractor telescopes is their price tag. Larger models tend to be proportionately more expensive than their smaller counterparts.

Reflecting on Reflectors. Various advantages also exist for reflecting telescopes. One of the biggest is the price tag. The normal manufacturing costs for reflector telescopes is considerably lower than that of refractors. Thus, the selling price is also more reasonable. In addition, reflector telescopes let you observe space more deeply. However, reflector telescopes’ mirrors are exposed to the elements and must be adjusted and cleaned quite often. Reflectors are also less portable than refractor telescopes and are less solidly fabricated due to the design differences.

Aperture Power. The “power” of a telescope is derived from the aperture. The aperture is the diameter of the reflector’s objective mirror, or the refractor’s objective lens. A telescope’s capability of collecting light is directly relative to the aperture size. Thus, the more light a telescope can collect, the better the image will be. However, remember that while larger telescopes are more powerful, they are also bulkier. Therefore, they are difficult to haul around. For amateurs, 4.5-inch and 6-inch reflector telescopes are the most commonplace. Many amateurs typically prefer 2.4-inch and 3.1-inch refractor telescopes.

You Get What You Pay For. If you have the funds, you could purchase the most expensive refractor or reflector telescope on the market. However, it is more important to consider the type of astronomical observation you will be doing, as well what you can afford.



  1. Tom Austin said,

    on April 6th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Gday.. I want to look at objects over land and sea approx 2 kms..Refract or reflect Regards Tom

  2. billy tinkle said,

    on March 12th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    i want to look ot objects on land at about 1 mile what scope do i need