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Aberrations

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Aberrations
CHAPTER 26 | VISION AND OPTICAL INSTRUMENTS
Figure 26.26 (a) The Australia Telescope Compact Array at Narrabri (500 km NW of Sydney). (credit: Ian Bailey) (b) The focusing of x rays on the Chandra Observatory, a
satellite orbiting earth. X rays ricochet off 4 pairs of mirrors forming a barrelled pathway leading to the focus point. (credit: NASA)
A current exciting development is a collaborative effort involving 17 countries to construct a Square Kilometre Array (SKA) of telescopes capable of
covering from 80 MHz to 2 GHz. The initial stage of the project is the construction of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder in Western
Australia (see Figure 26.27). The project will use cutting-edge technologies such as adaptive optics in which the lens or mirror is constructed from
lots of carefully aligned tiny lenses and mirrors that can be manipulated using computers. A range of rapidly changing distortions can be minimized by
deforming or tilting the tiny lenses and mirrors. The use of adaptive optics in vision correction is a current area of research.
Figure 26.27 An artist’s impression of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder in Western Australia is displayed. (credit: SPDO, XILOSTUDIOS)
26.6 Aberrations
Real lenses behave somewhat differently from how they are modeled using the thin lens equations, producing aberrations. An aberration is a
distortion in an image. There are a variety of aberrations due to a lens size, material, thickness, and position of the object. One common type of
aberration is chromatic aberration, which is related to color. Since the index of refraction of lenses depends on color or wavelength, images are
produced at different places and with different magnifications for different colors. (The law of reflection is independent of wavelength, and so mirrors
do not have this problem. This is another advantage for mirrors in optical systems such as telescopes.) Figure 26.28(a) shows chromatic aberration
for a single convex lens and its partial correction with a two-lens system. Violet rays are bent more than red, since they have a higher index of
refraction and are thus focused closer to the lens. The diverging lens partially corrects this, although it is usually not possible to do so completely.
Lenses of different materials and having different dispersions may be used. For example an achromatic doublet consisting of a converging lens made
of crown glass and a diverging lens made of flint glass in contact can dramatically reduce chromatic aberration (see Figure 26.28(b)).
Quite often in an imaging system the object is off-center. Consequently, different parts of a lens or mirror do not refract or reflect the image to the
same point. This type of aberration is called a coma and is shown in Figure 26.29. The image in this case often appears pear-shaped. Another
common aberration is spherical aberration where rays converging from the outer edges of a lens converge to a focus closer to the lens and rays
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CHAPTER 26 | VISION AND OPTICAL INSTRUMENTS
closer to the axis focus further (see Figure 26.30). Aberrations due to astigmatism in the lenses of the eyes are discussed in Vision Correction, and
a chart used to detect astigmatism is shown in Figure 26.8. Such aberrations and can also be an issue with manufactured lenses.
Figure 26.28 (a) Chromatic aberration is caused by the dependence of a lens’s index of refraction on color (wavelength). The lens is more powerful for violet (V) than for red
(R), producing images with different locations and magnifications. (b) Multiple-lens systems can partially correct chromatic aberrations, but they may require lenses of different
materials and add to the expense of optical systems such as cameras.
Figure 26.29 A coma is an aberration caused by an object that is off-center, often resulting in a pear-shaped image. The rays originate from points that are not on the optical
axis and they do not converge at one common focal point.
Figure 26.30 Spherical aberration is caused by rays focusing at different distances from the lens.
The image produced by an optical system needs to be bright enough to be discerned. It is often a challenge to obtain a sufficiently bright image. The
brightness is determined by the amount of light passing through the optical system. The optical components determining the brightness are the
diameter of the lens and the diameter of pupils, diaphragms or aperture stops placed in front of lenses. Optical systems often have entrance and exit
pupils to specifically reduce aberrations but they inevitably reduce brightness as well. Consequently, optical systems need to strike a balance
between the various components used. The iris in the eye dilates and constricts, acting as an entrance pupil. You can see objects more clearly by
looking through a small hole made with your hand in the shape of a fist. Squinting, or using a small hole in a piece of paper, also will make the object
sharper.
So how are aberrations corrected? The lenses may also have specially shaped surfaces, as opposed to the simple spherical shape that is relatively
easy to produce. Expensive camera lenses are large in diameter, so that they can gather more light, and need several elements to correct for various
aberrations. Further, advances in materials science have resulted in lenses with a range of refractive indices—technically referred to as graded index
(GRIN) lenses. Spectacles often have the ability to provide a range of focusing ability using similar techniques. GRIN lenses are particularly important
at the end of optical fibers in endoscopes. Advanced computing techniques allow for a range of corrections on images after the image has been
collected and certain characteristics of the optical system are known. Some of these techniques are sophisticated versions of what are available on
commercial packages like Adobe Photoshop.
This content is available for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11406/1.7
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