The debate has raged on for years about which one is the best for people looking out into the galaxy, but the answer won’t come for you personally unless you understand the differences between the two. This short guide will list the differences between reflecting and refracting telescopes and why you should choose one over the other. Even though the debate will continue to go forward, what you are using your telescope for will play a large part in which one is a more favorable buy.
Why Do Mirrors Make a Difference?
Reflecting telescopes are considered the professional choice, and is the most widely used type by professionals. The 24 inch Newtonian/Cassegrain is a reflecting telescope, and is considered an innovation of its time. Reflecting telescopes use curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image. There are less image faults in a reflective telescope than with a refracting telescope, so the mirrors really do make a big difference. They also offer larger diameter objectives than a refracting telescope, and are used more in research than any other type.
When created by a good company, a reflecting telescope will often have in house enhancements to it that will further its design and power even more. So if your prime objective is to get the most accurate image possible when looking at the stars, then a reflecting telescope should be your first choice. This holds the same for astrophotography, which heavily depends on the quality of the image in order to produce the best result. Now this doesn’t mean that the mirrors are without fault, as even the most heavily protected reflecting telescope will be less durable than a refracting telescope. That seems to be a big weakness in theory, and even though improved over the years, refractor telescopes are still the best if you want portability without worry of breaking the internals.
The Price Debate
Reflecting telescopes are more expensive than their counterparts due to the extra sensitive internals. But the problem with that is if you purchase a portable reflecting telescope, it is more prone to breaking than others due to those same expensive parts. So ideally for a beginner, a refractor telescope would be the perfect match since there is less chance of it breaking.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than buying a 1 grand reflecting telescope for a beginner only to have them damage it a week later due to negligence. This isn’t something that is suffered with refractor telescopes, which is exactly why they continue to be neck and neck with the others in sales. As long as refractor telescopes continue to sell at a lower price than reflecting telescopes they will always have a slight advantage. But the best bang for your buck if you know the person that will be using it is careful, well that will be the reflecting telescopes. They are too far advanced to pass up if you are an intermediate or expert user.
Key Uses for Each
For getting the purest detail of a planet or galaxy, then a reflecting telescope is going to be the choice. There is nothing more frustrating than buying a telescope but finding out that it lacks the power to even see the rings on Saturn. By default most telescopes on the market can at least see the Moon. But the depth of how much you can see will be determined on the telescope used, and remember that reflecting telescopes can be made bigger than a refracting telescope.
Photography, but not astrophotography would be in the hands of refracting telescopes. And in some cases you can even argue that astrophotography would also be a plus of refracting types. The reason is refracting telescopes are a lot lighter and therefor can follow a moving object cleaner than its bigger brothers and sisters. So a comet moving across the sky can be followed both manually, and automatically if you have the right settings. And by weighing less you’ll get an incredible amount of portability compared to the bigger reflecting telescopes. This means movement will be smooth and won’t be taxing on you in long periods where you’re following multiple objects.
If price is an issue and you want a lot of accessories, then once again refracting telescopes are going to be the best choice since they start out so low in price. By the time you collect all the accessories you want, you’ve already got the base scope and its extras for the price of a base reflecting telescope.
The simple breakdown is that reflecting telescopes are great if money isn’t an option and refracting telescopes are the go to if you want to save. There is nothing wrong with owning both, as once again they have their specific advantages. Whichever way you end up going you’ll be in possession of a fine tool that is built for the imagination.