Refracting Telescope: A refracting or refractor telescope is a type of optical telescope that uses a lens as its objective to form an image (also referred to a dioptric telescope). The refracting telescope design was originally used in spy glasses and astronomical telescopes but is also used for long focus camera lenses.
The Achromatic refracting lens was invented in 1733 by an English barrister named Chester Moore Hall although it was independently invented and patented by John Dollond around 1758. The design overcame the need for very long focal lengths in refracting telescopes by using an objective made of two pieces of glass with different dispersion, "crown" and "flint glass", to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration. Each side of each piece is ground and polished, and then the two pieces are assembled together. Achromatic lenses are corrected to bring two wavelengths (typically red and blue) into focus in the same plane. The era of the Great refractors in the 19th century saw large achromatic lenses culminating with largest achromatic refractor ever built, the Great Paris Exhibition Telescope of 1900.
Apochromatic refractors have objectives built with special, extra-low dispersion materials. They are designed to bring three wavelengths (typically red, green, and blue) into focus in the same plane. The residual color error (tertiary spectrum) can be up to an order of magnitude less than that of an achromatic lens. Such telescopes contain elements of fluorite or special, extra-low dispersion (ED) glass in the objective and produce a very crisp image that is virtually free of chromatic aberration. Such telescopes are sold in the high-end amateur telescope market. Apochromatic refractors are available with objectives of up to 553 mm in diameter, but most are between 80 and 152 mm
Reflecting Telescope: A reflecting telescope (also called a reflector) is an optical telescope which uses a single or combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image. The reflecting telescope was invented in the 17th century as an alternative to the refracting telescope which, at that time, was a design that suffered from severe chromatic aberration. Although reflecting telescopes produce other types of optical aberrations, it is a design that allows for very large diameter objectives. Almost all of the major telescopes used in astronomy research are reflectors. Reflecting telescopes come in many design variations and may employ extra optical elements to improve image quality or place the image in a mechanically advantageous position. Since reflecting telescopes use mirrors, the design is sometimes referred to as a "catoptric" telescope.
The Newtonian telescope was the first successful reflecting telescope, completed by Isaac Newton in 1668. It usually has a paraboloid primary mirror but at focal ratios of f/8 or longer a spherical primary mirror can be sufficient for high visual resolution. A flat secondary mirror reflects the light to a focal plane at the side of the top of the telescope tube. It is one of the simplest and least expensive designs for a given size of primary, and is popular with amateur telescope makers as a home-build project.
The Cassegrain telescope (sometimes called the "Classic Cassegrain") was first published in an 1672 design attributed to Laurent Cassegrain. It has a parabolic primary mirror, and a hyperbolic secondary mirror that reflects the light back down through a hole in the primary. Folding and diverging effect of the secondary creates a telescope with a long focal length while having a short tube length.
Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope: The Schmidt–Cassegrain is a catadioptric telescope that combines a cassegrain reflector's optical path with a Schmidt corrector plate to make a compact astronomical instrument that uses simple spherical surfaces.
While there are many variations, (both mirrors spherical, both mirrors aspherical, or one of each) they can be divided into two principal design forms: compact and non-compact. In the compact form, the corrector plate is located at or near the focus of the primary mirror. In the non-compact, the corrector plate remains at or near the center of curvature (twice the focal length) of the primary mirror. Typical examples of the compact design are Celestron and Meade Instruments commercial instruments, combining a fast primary mirror and a small, strongly curved secondary. This yields a very short tube length, at the expense of field curvature. Most compact designs from Meade and Celestron have a primary mirror with a focal ratio of f/2 and a secondary with a negative focal ratio of f/5 yielding a system focal ratio of f/10. One notable exception is the Celestron C-9.25, which has a primary focal ratio of f/2.3 and a secondary focal ratio of f/4.3, the result being a slightly flatter field and a slightly longer tube aspect ratio than most other compact designs.
Non-compact designs keep the corrector at the center of curvature of the primary mirror. One very well-corrected design example would be the concentric (or monocentric) Schmidt–Cassegrain, where all the mirror surfaces and the focal surface are concentric to a single point: the center of curvature of the primary. Optically, non-compact designs often yield better aberration correction and a flatter field than a compact design, but at the expense of longer tube length.