Optical Telescopes

Optical telescopes are the sort of telescope used to magnify objects by just using the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, these telescopes are the sort of telescope you are probably most familiar with, and it is the sort of telescope that you would buy as an amateur astronomer. Though just because amateurs use it doesn’t mean you should think it is less powerful or not used in real research. Some of the biggest telescopes in the world are optical scopes, and they tell us a great deal about our universe and reach deep into space to give us images of places we could never, ever hope to see with the naked eye. Believe it or not, astronomers can actually tell a great deal based on images gathered from telescopes, including just how far away the star is, how old the star is, whether or not the star is part of a larger system, and if there are any planets revolving around the star. Scientists can also view into nebulas and watch stars come to be, or they can study the remnants of supernovas and learn about what will happen in our own solar system when the sun finally ends its lifecycle.

Optical models of telescopes can be either refractors, reflectors, or a combination of the two. The very large telescopes used by scientists tend to be reflectors, rather than refractors. This means that the large telescopes use mirrors instead of glass lenses. There are many practical reasons for choosing mirrors over glass lenses, including the fact that a mirror doesn’t have to be free of imperfections on both sides, a mirror can be supported in its center, and a mirror does not sag the way huge plates of pure glass do.

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