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A Brief Introduction to Telescopes

Sep 16, 2008
What's a telescope? Generally speaking, a telescope is a device that magnifies the degree of visibility of far away objects, making these objects more amenable to observation. The telescope was first used by the early astronomers to observe the sky, and to discover new celestial bodies. Telescopes were instrumental in the advancement of science and in the development of newer and more efficient ways of observing celestial phenomena, such as the sun's activities, the planets' movement around the solar system, and the moon's waxing and waning. It took a long time before modern science was able to device technologies that would supersede the usefulness of the telescope. Even upon the advent of the Hubble Space Telescope, refracting telescopes are still very useful for astronomers and budding scientists, in their quests to understand the nature of the universe, and the Earth's place in it.

Now, there are two general categories for telescopes that are optical- first is the refracting-type telescope, and the second is the reflecting-type telescope. What is a refracting telescope? A refracting telescope has three general parts (which means, no matter how modern a refracting telescope is, it would still have these main parts as foundation for other parts): the telescope tube, the objective lens and the eye piece lens. The simplest explanation for a refracting telescope would be this: a refracting telescope is composed of two lenses that are convex, which are generally more thick in the very center than at the edges. This design allows colors and light to be focused more clearly and transmitted more efficiently to the eye piece lens.

The part of the telescope that is more near to the object being observed (may it be a turtle, a star or someone in a far away window) is called the objective lens. What happens technically is that this particular lens collects the color and light from a particular source, and takes focuses this as an image that is upside down inside the tube of the telescope. In simpler telescopes, the images remain inverted; but in the more modern versions, the images can be righted by special lenses inside the telescope. Other modern versions of the telescope also have recording devices located near the eye piece lens, so you may be able to record the things that you are observing. These types of telescopes are useful especially if you like observing meteor showers, and other types of celestial phenomena that don't visibly happen very often in the world's open skies.

Reflecting telescopes, on the other hand, utilize a different type of lens. Instead of having a convex lens, reflecting telescopes have a curved lens that were specifically crafted to bring back and magnify images. The power of a reflecting telescope to gather and focus light from a source can be achieved by increasing the area of the reflecting telescope's mirror. Large reflecting telescopes that may be found in astronomical installations were built specifically to observe the skies twenty four hours a day.
About the Author
Jesse McKenna is an telescope enthusiast of 12 years. For more information on telescopes, check out the telescope buying guide and stargazing tips at The Telescope .
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