Why Refractor Telescopes Are so Popular Among Skygazers

A refractor telescope is a type of optical scope used by both scientists and hobbyists. Essentially, they work by a series of lenses, somewhat like those you’ll find in eyeglasses, that focuses and intensifies light entering through one end. This gives a clear, enlarged image at the eyepiece.

These types of scopes are most commonly used by amateur skygazers to learn and have fun while admiring the beautiful heavens. Because they don’t use mirrors in the way reflecting telescopes do, they don’t require any difficult collimation (alignment) procedures that will prevent images from getting into focus until done correctly.

For this reason, they are great for inexperienced users and many beginners’ scopes are based on the refracting principle. Whatever level of scope you’re interested in, there a few basic parts that can be found in any refractor telescope.

Anatomy of a Telescope

Looking at one of these, the first thing you’ll notice is of course the main scope itself. On top of this is mounted what’s known as the finder, which is just a less powerful telescope that helps you locate the general area of objects in the sky and therefore makes aiming easier. Finally, the stand can be of two varieties.

The most common is a stand that allows the scope to move horizontally and vertically, called an altitude-azimuth or alt-az base. The other kind is known as an equatorial mount, which has to be aligned to the earth’s North Pole. The advantage of this type of scope is that they can track objects across the sky with a simple adjustment. Because the earth rotates, stars and planets will slowly drift out of view; an equatorial mount just makes it easier to adjust for this.

A refractor telescope does have a couple of drawbacks, most of which become more noticeable as the size of the scope increases. For the typical home user, though, the images they see with their refractor should be plenty clear enough, while the simplicity of these scopes is a major point in their favor.

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More about how and for what telescopes are used.
Though they mostly manufacture reflecting instead of refracting scopes, this company sells some nice beginner’s telescopes.

Why Astronomers Love Deep Space Telescopes and Their Pictures

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about 300 billion stars, giving you plenty to look at in our own neighborhood. Many astronomers just aren’t satisfied with this, though, and insist on seeing as far out as technology allows.

Deep space telescopes are a specialized type of equipment that is meant to look beyond our galaxy to the outer reaches of the observable universe. There are untold numbers of galaxies and formations outside of our galaxy waiting to be seen and observed, meaning that each increase in viewing power has an exponential effect on the types of phenomena that can be studied.

Pay to Play

These scopes are well beyond the grasp of the average hobbyist. While you can construct a very large telescope on your own with a little ingenuity, homebuilt scopes will never compare to the instruments available to scientists, universities, and institutions like NASA. The most famous and powerful of these deep space telescopes is the Hubble. Having been in orbit around the Earth for nearly twenty years now, the Hubble has taken incredible pictures of stars being born in addition to photographing a mind-boggling number of galaxies.

Like other deep space telescopes, the Hubble has an amazing sensitivity to light and great resolving power. Much of this relies on computer processing of images. By the time light from such distant objects reaches the earth, even the best telescope isn’t capable of displaying an image the human eye can discern.

Deep space observations have been invaluable to cosmologists, helping them to explain how galaxies are formed and how the universe has evolved since the Big Bang. Some galaxies, like our own, are shaped roughly like spirals, while others have contours more like an ellipse. Studying distant galaxies also increases our chances of one day observing rare, exotic astronomical phenomena: supermassive black holes, gamma ray bursts and perhaps, one day, even evidence of alien civilizations.

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Space Telescope
Obtaining clear images of distant galaxies often requires a telescope that lives above our planet’s atmosphere.
Celestron telescopes aren’t capable of seeing quite so far, but remain a great choice for hobbyist astronomers.

An Overview of Celestron’s Wide Range of Telescopes

Celestron Telescope is one of the premier manufacturers of high-quality scopes that will enable you to explore and appreciate the night sky, regardless of your age and experience level. Whatever you’re hoping to see, and even if you’re just starting out with astronomy, you can find exciting products from Celestron that take advantages of some of the best available technologies and construction methods.

Stargazing Made Easy

With each model, the company strives to provide a lightweight and ergonomic design that makes observing the stars easy and comfortable. Many of the company’s scopes feature electronic gadgets that you can use to observe whatever celestial features you’d like to see without having to aim manually. These typically have well over 10,000 sets of coordinates pre-programmed, including those of planets, Messier objects like nebulas and well-known stars.

After calibrating the scope to your position on earth, you can experience the joy and awe of seeing numerous features that are invisible to the naked eye with the push of a few buttons. You won’t have to worry about struggling to find a star, or wondering if you’ve got the right spot; the machine does almost all the work for you. If this sounds like your kind of astronomy, you might want to take a look at their NexStar SE range.

Economical Options

This may all sound a bit too advanced for many people and the company sells many beginner’s models as well. The FirstScope reflecting scope and the AstroMaster series are lines of telescopes that offer a comparable level of optical quality, but are very simple to use and don’t come with any digital widgets.

Whatever your level of skill, which scope will be right for you depends a lot on your location and your desired experience. For novices, this probably means getting to know the basics of finding their way around the night sky. Old hands, on the other hand, will probably want to explore certain celestial features in more detail. The galaxy holds a treasure trove of beautiful sights. Whatever your specific requirements, Celestron Telescope probably has a telescope that would work for you.

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Space Telescope
Space-based telescopes can see objects no terrestrial scope can hope to make out.
One of the two most popular kinds of telescope are called refractors because of their optical design.

Old But Not Forgotten: The Astroscan Telescope

An Astroscan telescope is probably one of the simplest and most convenient around – unless you’re serious about performance, at least. Great for beginners and kids, this design avoids any complex adjusters and stands, allowing you to start skygazing without any prior knowledge whatsoever. The telescope, because of its minimal part count, is also very inexpensive compared to some other tabletop models, though in terms of performance it doesn’t compare at all well to options like the Orion Starblast.

What Makes an Astroscan Unique?

An Astroscan telescope, like the somewhat similar Dobsonians, utilizes a reflective design that allows for plenty of light-gathering ability. A curved objective mirror concentrates incoming light, sending it to a secondary mirror from where it travels to the eyepiece. The most unique feature is that this mirror is housed in a kind of oversized globe attached to a short light tube, making it look like anything but a telescope.

One thing that makes an Astroscan so easy to use is its mount: instead of being perched on top of a tripod, it simply lies loosely in a kind of cradle – just grasp it and pull to change where it’s pointing. This simple system works well enough considering this compact telescope’s wide field of view and relatively low magnification, but would cause serious problems with a more powerful scope. If what you need is an easy-to-use scope that doesn’t need to be able to spot fainter objects, perhaps as a present for a younger child, an Astroscan is a solid choice.

The mirror is also permanently aligned so there’s no need for the difficult collimation process that is an unfortunate necessity with most reflective telescopes. This, too, comes with a caveat: since the mirrors are aligned at the time of production, they will probably focus well enough to see, but not to the level of perfection demanded by serious astronomy enthusiasts. Still, many of us have fond memories of the Astroscan, which won several design awards for its innovative features.

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Deep Space
Read more about telescopes designed to look way, way beyond the solar system.
A very different kind of telescope that’s also suitable for beginners.

Astronomical Telescopes: The Link Between Astronomy and Telescopes

In contrast to sciences like physics and biology, astronomy is usually based on observation rather than experiments. You can’t, after all, move a star to a more convenient location. This means that astronomers’ instruments have to be as precise as humanly possible.

Astronomical telescopes have been in existence since the beginning of the seventeenth century. Originally a device for use on ships, turning them skywards quickly proved that the universe was more complex than we originally thought. Today, several types of telescope are available, from lightweight, portable scopes made for the home user to massive installations costing millions of dollars.

Shedding Some Light on the Subject

Optical scopes – that is, those that work with visible light – are the most common and best known. Their purpose is simply to display the best image possible at the highest magnification for viewing or photography. They come in three basic varieties, all of which can be found among affordable models intended for the hobbyist. The simplest kind is called a refracting scope, which uses a series of lenses to enhance the view of the user. A reflecting telescope uses a series of curved mirrors instead, which means that they have both advantages and drawbacks compared to refractors. A catadioptric design uses a combination of the two methods, usually in a very compact device.

Examples of each of these types can be found both in huge observatory-based scopes and in smaller models you can set up in your back yard. In addition, different telescopes come with a variety of bases and stands that help you with finding and tracking objects in the night sky. The most common of these is a standard tripod base that lets you rotate the scope vertically and horizontally until it’s aimed where it should be. Equatorial bases are an alternative. These align the scope to the axis of the earth’s rotation, making it easier to track objects for long periods. This is especially useful when it comes to astrophotography.

Optical telescopes are the only type a casual skygazer will typically use. Professional researchers, however, have a wider array of tools at their disposal, including radio and energetic particle telescopes. Each kind helps to reveal more information about bodies such as nebulas and planets – as it turns out, there’s still a whole lot waiting to be discovered up there.

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Learn more about this common type of telescope.
A basic type of scope intended for use by complete newbies.