Should You Use a Color Filter on Your Telescope?
Color filters are an interesting telescope accessory. At their simplest, they are essentially a series of transparent glass pieces that are colored a certain way. This allows them to exclude certain colors of light when using a telescope. But why would a user want to reduce the amount of light that enters his telescope? Is it not common knowledge that the as one receives more light through an eyepiece, the image produced is sharper and brighter?
The answer is simple; telescopes are indiscriminate in collecting light, and the light from brighter celestial bodies may interfere in the viewing of other, smaller astronomical phenomena. In addition, certain stars and planets are known to reflect light in a certain range of wavelengths. Once this is known, it is not difficult to custom-engineer a color filter that will allow one to better study the object in detail, without interference from other celestial bodies. The object of study may also reflect a lot of light, producing glare, which makes close study of the celestial body difficult. Color filters can once again be helpful here, as they can be engineered to filter out excessive amounts of light from a certain spectrum.
It would not be entirely wrong to say that there are as many color filters as there are things to be studied in the sky - TS produces a wide range of color filters covering the entire spectrum of the rainbow, each designed to aid in the study of a particular planet. For instance, their green filter is designed to increase the overall contrast when looking at the sky, and in particular when studying the outer planets: it makes the Great Red Spot of Jupiter more visible, and aids in imaging the white spots in Saturn’s atmosphere. Other colors of lenses can even compensate for flaws in telescopes; for example, the dark yellow lens can reduce or even eliminate false color from Frauhofer refractors.
So, to return to the topic of this article: should you use a color filter on your telescope? The answer, as always, is “depending on your needs”. An amateur may not want to study any one body in particular, while a professional may not want to accidentally exclude certain phenomena because he fitted a color filter. But at the same time, an amateur might wish to make an intensive study of a certain celestial body, and the professional might only want to look for celestial bodies of a certain color. One must know what one needs before making a purchase.
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