How Do Telescopes Work?

What is the use of a telescope? – and how does it function?

Time to learn what 85% of people don’t know when buying a telescope!

Have you ever wondered what the function of a telescope is? Well, an astronomical telescope can let you look at far-away objects in our universe’s boundless expanse. The Hubble telescope (you may have heard of it) is one such telescope that offers you a look at other parts of the universe other than our own, but you don’t need such large-scale equipment to get breath-taking vistas; you can do it from your own backyard with a portable telescope.

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Astronomy as a hobby may be a lot of fun; there’s something about staring into the great depths of space that always leaves you with a feeling of awe and beauty.

How Do Telescopes Work?

A telescope, contrary to common perception, does not magnify things.

A telescope works by collecting light into its optical tube and then focusing it into a crisp picture that can be viewed via its eyepiece using a lens or mirror.

While magnification is still useful, consider this…

The mirror is analogous to a digital picture on your computer, and magnification is analogous to pushing the “zoom in” button on that picture; however, if the picture (the mirror) is poor quality, you’ll merely be zooming in on a fuzzy image.

The better the quality of the mirror, the more detail can be magnified.

Furthermore, the larger the optical tube of a telescope, the more light it can gather, which is why higher-end telescopes resemble giant buckets rather than the popular cultural picture of a telescope.

These thicker telescopes are ideal because a mirror can only be reflective up to a certain point, beyond which it must be greater in size (aperture) to extract the most information from the sky.

Consider a bucket full of raindrops. Because raindrops are light particles, a large bucket is required to gather a large number of raindrops.

Aperture and Magnification???

It’s really rather straightforward. The diameter of your telescope’s mirror/lens is the aperture, not the diameter of the tube opening. So, what is the significance of the aperture? The greater the aperture size, the greater the light-gathering capability and magnification. Because a bigger aperture collects more light, you obtain a better quality, darker picture.

A basic, starting Refractor size is between 60 and 100mm. A typical first-time Reflector size is 6-8 inches. In principle, the highest magnification your telescope can manage with a reflector is rough 50x per inch of aperture. It is 100x per inch of aperture for a Refractor. A beginner astronomer should avoid purchasing a big telescope since the weight and complexity of putting it up would annoy them. Furthermore, a novice should not spend a lot of money on such a huge telescope since they may not like astronomy.

The greatest magnification isn’t all that essential since on most nights, the best you can get with ANY telescope is approximately 250x. This is because of the uncertain weather circumstances. Larger telescopes should be able to acquire a lot greater magnification on the moon and certain planets on some nights when the atmosphere is steady and there is little humidity.

Ignore any telescope that merely advertises magnification. Many manufacturers realize that the ordinary user knows nothing about magnification, so they make the telescope seem to have a much greater magnification than it really has. The quality of the optics, visual resolution and light-gathering capabilities of a decent telescope are touted.

When it comes to seeing DSOs, magnification is entirely unimportant. What matters with DSOs is, once again, the light-gathering power that comes with the aperture.


Keep in mind that the objective of a telescope is to gather light, and the more light it catches, the greater the picture clarity, and the more you can magnify it. If you keep this in mind while purchasing a scope, you will have a more pleasurable observing experience.

There’s a lifetime of studying things with a telescope that you can’t see with the naked eye (even with high-powered binoculars), and all of the astrophotography that I and others perform with our scopes would still be insufficient to record everything that’s out there.

The collection of stars in our vast outer space is enough to enthrall anybody, and the sights acquired by a telescope will spark the imagination of many knowledge seekers, inspire numerous artists, and arouse the curiosity of a youngster who may one day become the next Galileo.

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