Difference between Reflecting and Refracting Telescopes

Difference between Reflecting and Refracting Telescopes

Telescopes are used to collect light from stars, planets, and other celestial bodies. They have two different types: reflecting and refracting.

Reflecting telescopes use mirrors to collect light from the sky. They need a huge amount of space for the mirror to be able to reflect the light in all directions. This is why they are usually large-scale observatories that can hold up to a few hundred people at a time.

Refracting telescopes use lenses instead of mirrors. They are smaller in size and can be placed on a small platform or building without much effort.

A telescope is an optical instrument that magnifies distant objects and enhances their view. These objects can be terrestrial or astronomical.

There are two types: reflecting and refracting telescopes. The refracting and reflecting telescopes have different ways of manipulating the incoming sunlight rays to magnify the image.

Reflecting Vs. Refracting Telescopes

Refracting and reflecting telescopes have different mirrors. A reflector has one or more curved mirrors to reflect light and create an image. To form an image, a refracting telescope uses a lens.

A reflecting telescope is a telescope that uses mirrors to reflect light. The light is reflected off the primary mirror and travels along a curved path to the eyepiece.

Refracting telescope uses lenses to focus light. Light enters at the top of the lens and travels down to an eyepiece at the bottom.

Reflecting telescopes are mostly used for terrestrial observation while refracting telescopes are mostly used for celestial observation.

Reflecting telescopes use mirrors to collect and focus light while refracting telescopes use lenses to collect and focus light.

A reflecting telescope uses mirrors to collect and focus light, which is then reflected by the secondary mirror, or a lens, to the eyepiece. The mirror or lens then focuses the image on the eyepiece. Refracting telescopes use lenses to collect and focus light, which is then focused through a small hole in the lens that is called an objective lens.

Reflecting telescopes can be used for daytime viewing because they are able to gather more light than refracting ones. Refracting telescopes are better at gathering faint objects like planets during nighttime viewing because they can gather more light from a larger area of space than their reflecting counterparts.

A reflecting telescope’s main component is a mirror that reflects the light and then focuses it in a narrow area. A refracting telescope, on the other hand uses lenses to focus light rays as they travel towards the other end.

What are Reflecting Telescopes?

A reflecting telescope is an optical scope that uses curved mirrors to reflect light and create an image.

It is composed of a primary lens, which is located at the lower end of the telescope tube. The front surface of the mirror is coated with a thin metal film such as aluminum. Most of the mirror’s back side is made of glass.

Reflecting light from a telescope’s primary mirror reflects it back to its focus. The primary mirror can be concave spherical, parabolic or cylindrical. When it reflects light rays, the image is inverted at the focal point.

Reflecting telescopes do not have chromatic aberrations because the reflected light is not dispersed according to its wavelength. The tube’s length is reduced, which reduces its cost.

Reflecting telescopes are heavier than the refracting ones, have poor optical quality, and can be more susceptible to dust and humidity than those with open tubes.

Their use is in the field of astronomy and research.

What are Refracting Telescopes?

A refracting telescope, an optical telescope that uses an objective lens to create an image of distant objects, is called a refracting telescope.

Two lenses make up the refracting telescope. One is the Objective lens and one is called the eyepiece. The objective lens creates an image of distant objects at its focal point, while the eyepiece magnifies it.

Refracting telescopes have excellent contrast and sharpness, are lightweight and portable, and have a tube that protects against humidity and dust.

Refracting telescopes are more susceptible to chromatic aberrations (colored fringes surrounding stars), can’t be larger and have a smaller diameter which has a lower light collection capacity than reflecting telescopes.

They are used in astronomy, photography, and spy glasses. Because of their simplicity and low cost, they are often used in camera lenses systems and binoculars.

Difference between Reflecting and Refracting Telescopes

  • A reflector telescope uses a single mirror or a combination of multiple curved mirrors to reflect light and create an image. A refracting telescope, on the other hand, has an objective lens that forms an image.
  • Mirroring telescopes use mirrors while refracting telescopes use lense.
  • The chromatic aberrations in refracting telescopes are less than those in reflectors.
  • Refracting telescopes are sharper and have better contrast than reflectors.
  • Refracting telescopes are smaller in diameter and have less light collecting power.
  • Refracting telescopes can be heavy and bulky, while reflectors telescopes can be light and easily transported.
  • Refracting telescopes cannot be made larger, but reflect telescopes can.
  • Refracting telescopes are protected from humidity and dust by having a closed tube. Reflecting telescopes, however, have an open tube which makes them vulnerable to humidity and dust.
  • Refracting telescopes are more expensive to build while reflecting telescopes are less costly.
  • While refracting telescopes are easy to clean and maintain, they have problems with their maintenance.
  • Refracting telescopes can be used for photography, while astronomy uses reflectors.


The reflecting and refracting telescopes are different in every way.

A reflecting telescope uses concave mirrors that bend inwards. The light rays travel down a tube of the telescope, where they are reflected back up to the secondary mirror at the top of the telescope tube. This serves as a guide for the light rays into the eyepiece.

A convex lens (bends outwards), is used to magnify, focus, and collect light rays in a refracting telescope. The light rays travel through the objective lens and are focused at the focal length by the eyepiece lens.

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