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Periscope vs. Telescope: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
A periscope allows viewing over, around, or through an object, obstacle, or surface; a telescope magnifies distant objects, typically in the sky.

Key Differences

Periscopes employ mirrors or prisms to see over obstacles, primarily used in submarines and during warfare. A telescope, however, is designed to observe distant celestial bodies and is fundamental in astronomy for studying space.
The periscope's basic principle is the reflection of light, which allows the observer to see from a protected or concealed position. In contrast, the telescope uses lenses or mirrors to gather and focus light from faraway objects, making them appear closer and clearer to the observer.
Periscopes are practical for navigation and tactical purposes in marine and land-based applications. Telescopes serve both amateur and professional astronomers in exploring and understanding the universe, contributing significantly to scientific discovery.
With a periscope, the focus is on redirecting the line of sight. The telescope's function is to collect more light than the human eye can, allowing detailed observation of faint and distant objects such as stars, planets, and galaxies.
A periscope is simple in design, often portable, and can be used in real-time to observe surroundings without exposure. Telescopes are usually more complex, larger, and are used for stargazing, tracking celestial events, and scientific research.

Comparison Chart


Redirects line of sight
Magnifies distant objects


Viewing over obstacles
Observing celestial bodies


Contains mirrors or prisms
Contains lenses or mirrors


Submarines, tactical use
Astronomy, celestial observation


Reflects light to the observer
Gathers and focuses light for magnification

Periscope and Telescope Definitions


Extendable viewing tool.
The toy periscope could extend to twice its size.


A device to make stars appear closer.
She gazed at the comet through her telescope.


A device with mirrors and prisms.
She built a periscope to see over the fence.


A tool for space exploration.
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured images of distant galaxies.


For viewing from a hidden position.
Soldiers employed a periscope to peer out of the trench.


For astronomical observations.
The observatory's telescope is open to the public on clear nights.


A tube with reflective surfaces.
He used the periscope to observe the nesting birds without disturbing them.


An optical instrument for viewing distant objects.
Galileo made discoveries with his telescope.


An instrument for observation.
The submarine captain used a periscope to survey the ocean surface.


Equipment with lenses or mirrors.
The new telescope had a highly advanced mirror system.


Any of various tubular optical instruments that conn reflecting elements, such as mirrors and prisms, to permit observation from a position displaced from a direct line of sight.


An arrangement of lenses or mirrors or both that gathers light, permitting direct observation or photographic recording of distant objects.


Can periscopes be used on land?

Yes, for tactical observation in warfare or leisure.

What is a periscope used for?

Viewing over, around, or through an obstacle or surface.

What do telescopes do?

Magnify and study distant celestial objects.

How does a periscope work?

By reflecting light through mirrors or prisms to the viewer.

Are telescopes only for night use?

Primarily, but solar telescopes are for daytime use.

What are the types of telescopes?

Refracting, reflecting, and catadioptric are common types.

Can a periscope magnify?

Usually not, it's for line-of-sight redirection.

Do all submarines have periscopes?

Most military submarines do.

Is telescope magnification adjustable?

Yes, by using different eyepieces or adjusting the focus.

Are periscopes used in tanks?

Yes, for driver and crew visibility.

Can periscopes be homemade?

Yes, with basic materials and mirrors or prisms.

How far can telescopes see?

Potentially billions of light-years, depending on their power.

Are there digital periscopes?

Yes, some modern versions use digital cameras and screens.

Do professional astronomers build their telescopes?

Some may, but most use commercially manufactured ones.

What was the first telescope used for?

Observing the heavens by Galileo.

What advancements are there in telescope technology?

Adaptive optics and space telescopes are major advances.

Do telescopes work in all weather?

Clarity is affected by weather; clear skies are best.

Can telescopes photograph what they see?

Yes, through a process called astrophotography.

What's a periscope's range of view?

Limited by its height and optical quality.

What is the simplest form of a periscope?

A tube with two mirrors at 45-degree angles.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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