<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
θ = 1 . 22 λ D , size 12{θ=1 "." "22" { {λ} over {D} } } {}

where λ size 12{λ} {} is the wavelength of light (or other electromagnetic radiation) and D size 12{D} {} is the diameter of the aperture, lens, mirror, etc., with which the two objects are observed. In this expression, θ size 12{θ} {} has units of radians.

Part a of the figure shows a graph of intensity versus theta. The curve has a central maximum at theta equals zero and its first minima occur at plus one point two two lambda over D and minus one point two two lambda over D. Farther from the central peak, several small peaks occur, but they are much much smaller than the central maximum. Part b of the figure shows a drawing in which two light bulbs, labeled object one and object two, appear in the foreground positioned next to each other. Two rays of light, one from each light bulb, pass through a pinhole aperture and continue on to strike a screen that is farther back in the drawing. On the screen is an x y plot of the two resulting intensity patterns. Because the rays cross in the pinhole, the ray from the left light bulb makes the right-hand intensity pattern, and vice versa. The angle between the rays coming from the light bulbs is labeled theta min. Each ray hits the screen at the central maximum of the intensity pattern that corresponds to the object from which the ray came. The central maximum of object one is at the same position as the first minimum of object two, and vice versa.
(a) Graph of intensity of the diffraction pattern for a circular aperture. Note that, similar to a single slit, the central maximum is wider and brighter than those to the sides. (b) Two point objects produce overlapping diffraction patterns. Shown here is the Rayleigh criterion for being just resolvable. The central maximum of one pattern lies on the first minimum of the other.

Connections: limits to knowledge

All attempts to observe the size and shape of objects are limited by the wavelength of the probe. Even the small wavelength of light prohibits exact precision. When extremely small wavelength probes as with an electron microscope are used, the system is disturbed, still limiting our knowledge, much as making an electrical measurement alters a circuit. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle asserts that this limit is fundamental and inescapable, as we shall see in quantum mechanics.

Calculating diffraction limits of the hubble space telescope

The primary mirror of the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope has a diameter of 2.40 m. Being in orbit, this telescope avoids the degrading effects of atmospheric distortion on its resolution. (a) What is the angle between two just-resolvable point light sources (perhaps two stars)? Assume an average light wavelength of 550 nm. (b) If these two stars are at the 2 million light year distance of the Andromeda galaxy, how close together can they be and still be resolved? (A light year, or ly, is the distance light travels in 1 year.)

Strategy

The Rayleigh criterion stated in the equation θ = 1 . 22 λ D size 12{θ=1 "." "22" { {λ} over {D} } } {} gives the smallest possible angle θ size 12{θ} {} between point sources, or the best obtainable resolution. Once this angle is found, the distance between stars can be calculated, since we are given how far away they are.

Solution for (a)

The Rayleigh criterion for the minimum resolvable angle is

θ = 1 . 22 λ D . size 12{θ=1 "." "22" { {λ} over {D} } } {}

Entering known values gives

θ = 1 . 22 550 × 10 9 m 2 . 40 m =  2.80 × 10 7 rad.

Solution for (b)

The distance s size 12{s} {} between two objects a distance r size 12{r} {} away and separated by an angle θ size 12{θ} {} is s = size 12{s=rθ} {} .

Substituting known values gives

s = ( 2.0 × 10 6 ly ) ( 2.80 × 10 −7 rad ) = 0 . 56 ly.

Discussion

The angle found in part (a) is extraordinarily small (less than 1/50,000 of a degree), because the primary mirror is so large compared with the wavelength of light. As noticed, diffraction effects are most noticeable when light interacts with objects having sizes on the order of the wavelength of light. However, the effect is still there, and there is a diffraction limit to what is observable. The actual resolution of the Hubble Telescope is not quite as good as that found here. As with all instruments, there are other effects, such as non-uniformities in mirrors or aberrations in lenses that further limit resolution. However, [link] gives an indication of the extent of the detail observable with the Hubble because of its size and quality and especially because it is above the Earth’s atmosphere.

Questions & Answers

What is heat
Maryam Reply
can a wheat stone bridge balance
jharana Reply
what is Norton's theorm
jharana
an atom is symply a smallest unsplittable particle that makes up a compound
levison Reply
what is atom
Ismaila Reply
nano parricles are arranging periodic
Bala
An atom is the smallest indivisible particle that can take place in a chemical reaction
Maryam
it consist of proton,neutron and electron
Ifada
An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that has the properties of a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small; typical sizes are around 100 picometers (a ten-billionth of a meter, in the short scale)
Baba
an atom is a smallest particles that take place in chemical reaction.
Gabriel
atom itself also contains further smallest particles e.g quarks
Baba
the smallest particle of a substance that can exist by itself or be combined with other atoms to form a molecule
Emmanuel
Water is flowing in a pipe with a varying cross-sectional area, and at all points the water completely fills the pipe. At point 1 the cross-sectional area of the pipe is 0.077 m2, and the magnitude of the fluid velocity is 3.50 m/s. (a) What is the fluid speed at points in the pipe where the cross
fagbeji Reply
A particle behave like a wave and we do not why?
WAQAR
what's the period of velocity 4cm/s at displacement 10cm
Andrew Reply
What is physics
LordRalph Reply
the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms.
Aluko
and the word of matter is anything that have mass and occupied space
Aluko
what is phyices
Aurang Reply
Whats the formula
Okiri Reply
1/v+1/u=1/f
Aluko
what aspect of black body spectrum forced plank to purpose quantization of energy level in its atoms and molicules
Shoaib Reply
a man has created by who?
Angel Reply
What type of experimental evidence indicates that light is a wave
Edeh Reply
double slit experiment
Eric
The S. L. Unit of sound energy is
Chukwuemeka Reply
Hertz
jharana
what's the conversation like?
ENOBONG Reply
some sort of blatherring or mambo jambo you may say
muhammad
I still don't understand what this group is all about oo
ENOBONG
no
uchenna
ufff....this associated with physics ..so u can ask questions related to all topics of physics..
muhammad
what is sound?
Bella
what is upthrust
Mercy Reply
what is upthrust
Olisa
Up thrust is a force
Samuel
upthrust is a upward force that acts vertical in the ground surface.
Rodney
yes rodney's answer z correct
Paul
what is centre of gravity?
Paul
you think the human body could produce such Force
Anthony
Practice Key Terms 1

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask