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The Difference Between Refractor and Reflector Telescopes

Updated on February 22, 2009
Bushnell Northstar Reflecting Telescope
Bushnell Northstar Reflecting Telescope

Refractor VS Reflector Telescopes

The two types of telescopes are quite simple to tell apart. Refractor Telescopes use lenses, much like your regular eye glasses. Reflector Telescopes use mirrors. Both are very great tools for viewing space, but there are some key differences.

Refractor telescopes are almost always very long and slender in size and shape. The eyepieces is always at the bottom of the telescope, putting your view straight through the lenses that are place on the back and front of the telescope.

Whereas reflector telescopes are usually quite fat and short, much like a large soda can. The eyepiece is placed toward the front (or top) of the telescope and a mirror is used to reflect the image sideways out of the telescope, through an eyepiece and into your eye.

There has always been a debate as to which telescope is better. Many refractor telescope enthusiasts would try to sell you that reflector telescopes are always shoddy and poorly made. While this may have some truth to it, reflector telescopes have some large benefits over refractors.

One common benefit that reflector telescopes have over their refractor counterpart is on the issue of focus. Refractor telescopes (lens-based scopes) have a tendency to not blend colors as easily. If we were to sharpen the focus on a blue color, the red colors would most likely fall out of focus. This may not have a large effect on your amateur astronomy experience, but at some point you might run into this issue.

Reflecting telescopes do a better job at keeping all of the colors together and in focus. But you might pay an extra buck for bang, so to speak.

Key Differences:
Obviously, you might find packing your reflector telescope around a bit more of a task than your refractor, but to some astronomy enthusiasts the extra weight is worth the effort. If you need the extra car space for camping gear and you don’t plan to spend too much time stargazing, then a nice small refractor telescope might serve you better.

If you’re ready for a more expensive telescope that can bring all of your colors into focus, then a reflecting telescope is going to suit you will, but you might pay and extra buck or two for it. Stargazing is still a new hobby for you, a refractor telescope will suit you just fine.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      It has the closes answer my teacher said

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      The frist one is more better but the othr one is not

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      gud it is

    • profile image


      9 years ago


    • ohkennyabi profile image


      9 years ago from The East

      I made my first telescope purchase a refractor. The diameter is close to 4 inch and more than a meter long when extended making it difficult to move around. My buddy had a 6 inch reflector and he can just carried around easily in any bags. Well kind of regretted not doing enough research before buying. If given the chance again, I go for reflector :).


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