23Jun2018

To Refract Or To Reflect? That Is The Question.

Whether ’tis nobler to view the night sky unfettered by diffraction spikes or by going deeper enjoying spiky stars, it seems, can stir up strong opinions. The answer is varied but simple.

Every dob owner should have a refractor and every refractor owner should have a dob.

I could be accused of sitting on the fence when I say I enjoy the views through a reflector with its inherent spiky stars due to the spider support of the secondary mirror, yet also enjoy the crisp pure view of stars as they really are when I set up one of my refractors.

You see it is a case of using what instrument is best for any given purpose, along with your own aesthetic tastes of course. For going deep to view deep-sky fuzzies such as distant galaxies and galaxy clusters, I will automatically reach for one of my Newtonian reflectors, or perhaps my 180mm Maksutov if I want a longer focal length system.

The latter is also better for any of my planetary or lunar viewing and imaging. My short focal length 80mm apo refractor and mid-range 127mm achromat refractor also have different uses. The smaller apo gives lovely wide field views suitable for larger targets such as the Andromeda Galaxy and sweeping along the star fields of the Milky Way.

It is also good for imaging those targets too, so is a good multi tasker. The 127mm is a longer focal length and gives gorgeous views of many double and multiple stars and, for my money, stunning views of many of the open clusters scattered along the Milky Way.

In the end, if you can find the space (and finance) for a selection of equipment, then aim for a mix of refractors and reflectors and a good range of eyepieces and you should be set for life. Until the next new telescope comes out of course! As for spikes or no spikes, it’s down to the choice of telescope: reflector or refractor.

But if I do have one bug bear it’s that refractors simply don’t have spikes – so don’t add them with image processing software – enjoy the purity of the view. There are plenty of targets to view highlighted in this month’s issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, so make sure to pick up a copy regardless of what you use to view the wonders above.  Adaprted: SkyAtNight

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