How does one determine magnification? I have an Edmund Scientific Astroscan, 4-1/8-inch aperture, F/4.2 reflecting telescope, used with a 2.5x Barlow lens and a 28mm Plossl eyepiece.

Pete Condon, Girard, Ohio
| Published: May 30, 2016 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The total magnification of your system depends on both your telescope’s focal length and your eyepiece.
Astronomy: James Forbes
The magnification (or power) you will see through a given optical system depends on the telescope and the eyepiece.

The simple formula is:

Magnification = Focal length of telescope ÷ focal length of eyepiece.

For this to work, both must be in millimeters. In your case, we need to calculate the focal length of your telescope.

We do that with another really simple formula:

Focal length = Aperture x focal ratio.

First, let’s change the aperture to millimeters: 4.125 inches = 104.775mm, which we’ll call 105mm.

So, the focal length of your scope = 105mm x 4.2 = 441mm. This is the first thing we need to know for our magnification formula.

If you were using only the eyepiece, the magnification would be 441 ÷ 28 = 15.75, or 16x. But you’re using a 2.5x Barlow lens, which effectively changes the focal length of your eyepiece to 11.2mm (28 ÷ 2.5).

Said another way, this Barlow lens increases the magnification of any eyepiece used with it by 2.5 times.

Finally, the magnification of this optical system is 441 ÷ 11.2 = 39.375, or 39x.

Michael Bakich
Senior Editor