Microscope vs Telescope – What’s the Difference?

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Anyone who knows me knows of my love affair with telescopes. But, this isn’t restricted to telescopes only – it also extends to all other kinds of optics, like binoculars and spotting scopes too.

However, one of the lesser talked about scopes (probably because they’re not often used on a commercial basis like telescopes and the others) is the microscope. Although we all know what a microscope is, the majority of us don’t own a microscope and probably haven’t used one since our childhoods. And although now microscopes are cheaper than ever, most of us don’t have a need for one.

But what is the difference between a microscope and a telescope? Well when curiosity kicks in, it’s essential you find an answer. Here are some of the differences and similarities between the two.

Microscope vs Telescope

Although a telescope and a microscope might seem the same, they’re designed with entirely different purposes in mind, so it’s actually pretty difficult to compare the two to one another.

Whilst a telescope is made to enable you to be able to see things that are far away in the distance, a microscope is made to be able to see something close up in greater detail. This doesn’t mean that they don’t use the same functions, as there are a lot of similarities between the two different types of scope.

So, although they both use convex/concave glass to give us a view of something at a much closer point, there are quite a few differences between the two. Lets take a look at some of them you might want to consider.

Key differences between microscopes and telescopes

  •  A microscope uses artificial light, whereas a telescope relies on natural light – Part of the way that telescopes work is by utilizing and drawing in light to portray the image of the sky. With microscopes, natural light isn’t necessary and they rely on artificial light in a lot of cases.
  • Aperture – Where the aperture on a telescope is one of the most important things for viewing planets far in the distance, the opposite is the case for a microscope. You don’t need a large aperture with a microscope, so they tend to have small apertures in comparison to other scopes.
  • Objective lenses – The objective lenses in a telescope are, as you might have guessed, far larger than the objective lenses in a microscope. In terms of power, the objective lens tend to be lower in a telescope, with more magnification power in the eyepiece lens. This is the opposite in the microscope, where the majority of magnification power is in the objective lens, and the additional lens is less powerful.

What Microscopes are Used For

For most people, a microscope seems like something you’d only use in a laboratory, but this isn’t the case. You can pick up a cheap USB microscope online and play around with it yourself if you want to understand more about how a microscope works.

Though, it is true that microscopes have changed the way that scientists are able to understand certain elements of science. This is particularly true within cell biology and the understanding of micro organisms, as microscopes allow the ability to see the structure of the tiniest objects.

Microscopes are used regularly by scientists to examine blood samples, tissues and viruses, which is just a small sample of their capabilities.

When it comes to microscopes, there are quite a few things that will make the process of looking at microscopic things easier. Microscopes come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of magnification. If you are really interested in the microscope, here are some articles on using microscopes and fun facts about microscopes as well.

One important piece to look into when it comes to examining microscopic life is goggles or glasses that have anti-reflective lenses for use with your microscope. Microscopes can be very bright so having these glasses will help protect your eyes from damage over time while making sure you can still examine whatever it is you want to see up close and personal.

What Telescopes are Used For

Generally, telescopes are far more amateur friendly than a microscope, due to the way that cheaper models are designed nowadays.

50 years ago, the average man didn’t know how to use a telescope properly as they were far too expensive, and they were generally saved for astronomers and scientists. Nowadays, with the information we have online, you can set up your own telescope yourself quickly and easily.

Telescopes still have their place as an important instrument in science too. The best example of this is the Hubble Space Telescope, which has helped scientists understand space in much greater detail – the Hubble has a ton of data, and this one picture represents thousands of galaxies in a simple image.

One main use of telescopes for amateurs nowadays is to use them for astrophotography. Whilst a telescope alone can give us a good view of the sky, if you use them with a good camera – DLSR or CCD – then these kind of images can be reproduced.

If you’re interested in trying this yourself, check out my list of the best planet telescopes, which you can use to see deep space objects in the night sky.


Overall, it’s clear there are some differences between microscopes and telescopes. Though they function in a similar way to one another (they both use lenses), they really cannot be compared with each other as they are design with different goals in mind.

Whilst a microscope can be used for seeing a close object in extremely close detail, a telescope can be used for seeing distant objects in good detail too.

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