Refractor Versus Reflector Telescopes

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Choosing the right telescope is an important factor to consider before purchasing one. Which is the correct one to buy for your situation? Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Refractor Telescope

Refractor telescopes use lenses to bring light from a distant object to the eyepiece in a straight line of sight view. They are easy to use and require little to no maintenance. Refractors are excellent for observing lunar, planetary and binary stars and for distant terrestrial viewing. Refractors are generally more expensive due to having polished glass lenses. They are also heavier and longer than reflector telescopes.

A Reflector telescopes has a concave, spherical or parabolic primary mirror at the back of the telescope with a side mounted eyepiece at the front end. Light from a distant object is reflected off of the primary mirror onto a secondary diagonal mirror to the eyepiece. Reflectors are generally less expensive than refractor telescopes. They are compact and portable and with short focal ratios, give a wider field of view. When used with a Dobsonian mount, reflectors are easy to operate and are good for lunar and planetary viewing. Reflectors don’t work well for terrestrial viewing as the images are inverted and backwards. The location of the secondary mirror and its supports create a central obstruction and can cause the appearance of diffraction spikes.

Whichever type of telescope you choose, a telescope with a large aperture brings in more light resulting in brighter images and higher resolution.