A traveling microscope is a microscope which is used to measure very small objects. Accurate measurements on the scale viewable with a microscope are difficult or impossible to obtain with the naked eye; a traveling microscope allows a researcher to obtain a very accurate and precise measurement. These microscopes are used in a number of laboratory environments, and are manufactured by several companies which produce microscopes and related products. Because this type of microscope is a bit of a specialty item, it can be somewhat expensive, especially if it has very high levels of optical resolution.
Like a conventional microscope, a traveling microscope has a head fitted with lenses which can be used to magnify and focus on a small object. The head, however, is mounted on a slider which can be moved along a scale. With the object fixed in place, the head can be manipulated to take measurements of the object being studied. Classically, a traveling microscope uses a Vernier scale, a very precise type of scale utilized for scientific measurements because of its extreme accuracy and ability to measure very small increments.
Researchers can also mount a camera onto the microscope, using the camera to document the item they are studying and the measurement process. Documentation can be useful for a variety of reasons, ranging from wanting to document every stage of research in case disputes arise in the future to wanting to be able to connect the camera to a projector to show students and fellow researchers what is going on in real time.
Because a traveling microscope is fitted to a scale, it requires some special care. The microscope needs to be well maintained and protected from shock and impacts, as this could throw the calibration of the scale off. While being off to a small degree on a large measurement might not be viewed as the end of the world, measurements taking place on a microscopic level need to be very precise, because the error could be quite significant. Like other microscopes, the traveling microscope should be routinely covered when not in use to prevent dust from getting into the head of the microscope and to provide some protection from temperature changes.
Several companies sell used and refurbished traveling microscopes. This can be an appealing alternative to paying retail price on a brand new microscope. These microscopes are accompanied with a guarantee from the company which assures buyers that the microscope is properly calibrated and all of the parts are in working order.