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Resolving power

# Resolving power - falls at the position of the first dark...

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Resolving power The resolving power of an optical instrument, such as your eye, or a telescope, is its ability to separate far-away objects that are close together into individual images, as opposed to a single merged image. If you look at two stars in the sky, for example, you can tell they are two stars if they're separated by a large enough angle. Some stars, however, are so close together that they look like one star. You can only see that they are two stars by looking at them through a telescope. So, why does the telescope resolve the stars into separate objects while your eye can not? It's all because of diffraction. If you look at a far-away object, the image of the object will form a diffraction pattern on your retina. For two far-away objects separated by a small angle, the diffraction patterns will overlap. You are able to resolve the two objects as long as the central peaks in the two diffraction patterns don't overlap. The limit is when one central peak
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Unformatted text preview: falls at the position of the first dark fringe for the second diffraction pattern. This is known as the Rayleigh criterion. Once the two central peaks start to overlap, in other words, the two objects look like one. The size of the central peak in the diffraction pattern depends on the size of the aperture (the opening you look through). For your eye, this is your pupil. A telescope, or even a camera, has a much larger aperture, and therefore more resolving power. The minimum angular separation is given by: The factor of 1.22 applies to circular apertures like your pupil, a telescope, or a camera lens. The closer you are to two objects, the greater the angular separation between them. Up close, then, two objects are easily resolved. As you get further from the objects, however, they will eventually merge to become one....
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