Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope has been written for the many amateur astronomers who already own, or are intending to purchase, a refracting telescope – perhaps to complement their existing arsenal of larger reflecting telescopes – or for the specialist who requires a particular refractor for serious astronomical applications or nature studies.
Four hundred year ago, during the winter of 1609, a relatively unknown Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei designed a spyglass with two crude lenses and turned it skyward. Since then, refractors have retained their dominance over all types of reflector in studies of the Moon, planets and double stars because of the precision of their optics and lack of a central obstruction in the optical path, which causes diffraction effects in all commercially-made reflectors.
Most mature amateur astronomers got started with a 60mm refractor, or something similar. Thirty years ago, there was little choice available to the hobbyist, but in the last decade long focus crown-flint achromats have moved aside for some exquisitely crafted apochromatic designs offered by leading commercial manufacturers. There has been a huge increase in the popularity of these telescopes in the last few years, led by a significant increase in the number of companies (particularly, William Optics, Orion USA, StellarVue, SkyWatcher and AstroTech) who are now heavily marketing refractors in the amateur astronomical magazines.