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Teacher Resources

What is the difference between Refractor and Reflector telescopes?

Refractor telescopes are telescopes that use lenses to gather and focus light. Refractors deliver sharp, high-contrast images with crisp views of the moon, planets and stars. Refractors are known for their rugged simplicity. They are easy to aim, they need little maintenance and lenses rarely need alignment-very popular for beginning students of astronomy.

Reflectors are telescopes that use mirrors. They most commonly use a concave main mirror at the bottom of the tube, which focuses light back up to the top of the tube. There, a small flat mirror deflects the light at right angles to an eyepiece on the side of the tube. Reflectors offer more aperture (objective lens diameter) for the money than refractors, providing enough light to reveal hundreds of deep-sky objects as well as show details of the moon and planets. However, exposed mirrors can collect dust and grime and may need occasional adjustments to keep them properly aligned.

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