How do telescopes work?

Having your very own telescope can be an incredible experience providing a way to get up close and personal with the cosmos. By using an array of lenses and mirrors, this device can collect light from objects that are millions of kilometers away. It gives you a first row seat to the magic found in every corner of the universe.

Different types of telescopes work in different ways, but generally there are two main types of telescopes. These are known as refracting telescopes that bend light slightly so that it focuses into your eye and reflecting telescopes that bounce light around in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to focus light into your eyes.

Telescope Light Ray Diagrams - Sam Knox


Image and copyright Sam Knox ©, all rights reserved.

Both of these telescopes collect light on the left side (see figure above) using large lenses and focus it into your eye on the right side. One funny thing that happens in all astronomical telescopes is that the image is upside down! This effect is similar to when you hold a magnifying glass out far enough away from you, you will see everything on the other side is upside down.

If you have a telescope at home and you would like to know more about how it works and the best way to use it, you should come to our ‘Bring Your Own Telescope’ event on the 14th of May 2016. Information and tickets are available here.

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