tl;dr As said by @uhoh in the comments, is there A Big Book of Telescopes? i.e: Is there some kind of media that gives a complete treatment to telescopes?

I am relatively new to Astronomy.SE. I wanted to enquire if there was a good guide on how to use telescopes based on certain specifications as given below.

Note: By guide, I mean anything from a book to online lectures to videos, etc. (Basically, any kind of media)


  1. The guide should systematically cover all the necessities one must know to effectively utilize telescopes in levels from Beginner to Advanced. Like for beginners, it could be stuff like the parts of a Newtonian telescope, basic optics, etc.

  2. The guide should cover the physics/optics and engineering behind such telescopes.

  3. The guide should consist/conclude with the limitations of the most advanced telescopes and how astronomers/engineers are devising probable workarounds to improve upon them.

  4. It would be wonderful if it contained history that led to the development of the specific kind of telescopes that we use at an Amateur stage to ones used by Professionals.

  5. The guide should include telescopes of all regions of the EM spectrum like Ultraviolet Telescopes, Infrared Telescopes, etc. (Optional Point; Would be wonderful if it contains this too)

As said by @planetmaker the guide I want is something that combines a complete operations manual, complete engineering documentation, and a historical treatise for the major/most common telescopes that one utilizes as they grow from Beginner to Amateur to Advanced in a systematic way so that it functions as an aid to someone self-exploring the subject.

I apologize if this kind of question is inappropriate/off-topic for Astronomy.SE. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any guides by myself with such specifications. I suppose one should wonder whether such kinds of guides exist(I hope they do!) or whether mine is a too niche kind of question.

Thank You!!!

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    $\begingroup$ While I believe that such question is perfectly on-topic, I think your question is quite broad to the extend of being too broad as you basically ask about a complete operations manual, a complete engineering documentation and a historical treatise for all telescopes there are. Given this breadth of the query, I find it hard to believe that you did not find any ressources yourself so far or in how far the ones you found (which) are insufficient to answer your question at least partially. I'd appreciate if you'd amend your question by this. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Aadhavan Your question is not really broad, you've simply asked "Is there a Big Book of Telescopes?" which is either going to turn up a few, or none. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 13 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I suppose adding your edit would at least aid in getting an answer that would satisfy most of my specifications but I do want something that systematically covers everything till recent knowledge right from scratch including the UV/IR Telescopes. Maybe I could mention it as an optional point, would that be fine? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Aadhavan sure sounds good, but I have a hunch that there will not be any single source for all of this, unless it's a very superficial treatment. I think the reason that you couldn't find any is simply that there aren't any, but that's just my view. I think you can find sources that specifically cover telescope optics, and other sources on telescope development history, and others on focal plane techniques (sensors etc.) etc. It seems almost asking too much to require it all to be in a single source. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 13 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Thanks for the summary of the question, I changed my opinion and retracted my close-vote. $\endgroup$
    – B--rian
    Jul 14 at 9:49

The closest that I know of would either be Nightwatch (Terence Dickinson) and/or The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (also Terence Dickinson).

I don't think either of those cover your last requirement of "telescopes of all regions of the EM spectrum like Ultraviolet Telescopes, Infrared Telescopes, etc.", though.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for responding! Do both of these contain the physics/optics and engineering behind such telescopes? And the history behind their developments? $\endgroup$ Jul 14 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Aadhavan The Backyard Astronomer's Guide does, and I think Nightwatch does briefly as well, though I don't have either to hand in order to double-check for you. Nightwatch is more about observing and TBAG goes into more detail about equipment. $\endgroup$
    – Aaron F
    Jul 14 at 14:15

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