difference between telescope and microscope

Telescope Vs. Microscope: 3 Key Differences

The notes of cash in your wallet have hundreds of germs and bacteria all over them, which you cannot see just by looking at the surface. Micro-organisms like viruses and bacteria, or even the farthest star from Earth, named Icarus, cannot be seen with your bare eyes!

Optical equipment, like telescopes and microscopes, enable us to see such objects which are impossible to trace with our limited extent of vision. However, there are remarkable differences between telescope and microscope.

This telescope vs microscope comparison guide will shed light upon the distinguishable characteristics of these two optical devices!


What Is a Telescope?


To sum up the facts presented throughout the article, a telescope is an optical device with the sole purpose of making faraway objects situated at or near infinity to the naked human eye. A telescope uses its objective lens and eye lens for producing and magnifying virtual images of the object in viewing.

The focal length and aperture of the objective lens are required to be large for letting in as much light as possible for producing a clear image. The light is captured through the lenses travels all the way from the objects as emitted or reflected rays.

If you have a budding interest in astronomy, you should get yourself a telescope right away now that you know all about its mechanisms and features! Also check out our difference between astronomy and cosmology guide.


What Is a Microscope?


As opposed to a telescope, a microscope focuses on producing real images of tiny organisms all around us. It could be a bacteria, animal or plant cells or even a tiny ladybug sitting on the top of the pile of leaves in your backyard!

Microscopes use both their objective lens and eye lens for magnification of the object being viewed. Since microscopes are used to inspect small-scale objects rather than objects situated at infinity, their objective lenses do not require large focal lengths and large apertures.

No light is captured using microscopes as they have their own illumination system. The magnified real image formed by microscopes is the cumulative magnification performed by both the objective lens as well as the eye lens.


Telescope Vs. Microscope

telescope vs microscope

We might not be able to catch sight of certain objects in the universe, but we sure can look at the dissimilarities between telescopes and microscopes without the help of any optical instruments!

Difference in Purpose

Albeit the similar service of magnification offered by both telescopes as well as microscopes, their usage and purpose differ significantly. A telescope is used for observing objects that are very far away from us, such as stars and planets.

On the contrary, a microscope allows us to peruse tiny micro-organisms that are near us. A telescope can be ideally found at observatories, while a microscope usually belongs in pathological labs.


Difference in Mechanism

A telescope is inherently designed to capture the light emitted from faraway objects in space. This, in turn, makes the light rays coming towards the Earth almost parallel, which can then be used to project a virtual image. The virtual image formed is later on magnified in size by the telescope’s eyepiece.

In a microscope, two separate features work towards magnifying the image twofold. Firstly, the microscope’s objective lens magnifies the real image of the object inside the tube of the microscope. This magnification is followed by another step where an eyepiece performs further magnification on the real image.


Difference in Features

Both telescopes and microscopes have two lenses: an objective lens and an eye lens. However, the features of these lenses are what sets a telescope apart from a microscope. In a telescope, the objective lens has a large aperture and a large focal length coupled with the small aperture and small focal length of the eye lens.

On the other hand, a microscope has an objective lens with a small aperture and small focal length accompanied by an eye lens of large aperture and moderate focal length.

While using a telescope, the distance between the objective lens and eyes lens is varied accordingly for proper focus on the distant object being viewed. But in the case of a microscope, the distance between the objective lens and eye lens is fixed. The parameter adjusted for focus is the distance between the objective lens and the object being inspected.


There is a vast array of differences between a telescope and a microscope apart from the above-mentioned characteristics. You will catch a glimpse of these differences in the comparison table presented below!


Difference Between Telescope and Microscope: A Table

Parameter of Comparison Telescope Microscope
Purpose To view distant objects To view nearby minuscule objects
Eye lens Small focal length and small aperture Moderate focal length and large aperture
Objective Lens Large focal length and large aperture Small focal length and small aperture
Task of the Objective Lens To be as large as possible for capturing as much light as possible to focus on object located at infinity Do not have to be large since light does not have to be captured for focusing on nearby objects
Aperture Ranges between 2” to 16” and larger Varies from one microscope to another
Distance Between Objective and Eye Lens Adjusted accordingly to focus on the distant object Fixed, the only distance between the objective lens and the object is varied
Magnification For better magnification, the objective lens should have a large focal length For better magnification, the objective lens should have a short focal length
Illumination Does not have an illumination system of its own, rather uses the light emitted by or from the object in view Has an illumination system where a number of lens elements can be varied according to the need
Marking Eyepieces generally marked with their built-in focal length Eyepieces generally marked with their built-in magnification
Image Virtual image of an object situated at infinity generated by the eyepiece Real image magnified by the eyepiece



Telescopes and microscopes both enable us to find out more about the world and the cosmos around it.

So, surf through this article too for unraveling the differences between telescope vs microscope!


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