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Gaussian approximation

In the paraxial, or Gaussian approximation, the image of a point is assumed to be formed by rays close to optical axis - paraxial rays - for which sine of the angle practically equals the angle itself (in radians). Replacing sine by the angle simplifies the expressions for refraction and reflection (Snell's law), allowing for quick, yet accurate assessment of basic spatial and geometric image properties, derived from the pupil-toimage separation. Since it effectively uses only a small central portion of the optical surface, it does not provide information on image quality, i.e. aberrations. In aberration-free systems, Gaussian and actual focus coincide. Image separation for an imaging surface, refracting or reflecting, is obtained from this basic equation relating object distance O, single optical surface radius of curvature R and image-to-surface separation I:

with n and n' being the refractive index before and after reflection or refraction, respectively. In other words, nis the index of incident medium, and n' is index of the refractive or reflective medium. Numerically, either is positive for light traveling from left to right, and negative for the opposite direction (also, according to the sign convention, object or image distance is negative when either is to the left of surface, positive when to the right). For given surface radius R, image and object distance are in inverse relation; the image of farther away objects is closer to the objective. As the object distance O approaches infinity, image distance I reduces to the focal length I=R/[1-(n/n')]=ƒ. The appropriate focal point is called paraxial, or Gaussian focus. This relation is derived from the geometry of refracting (or reflecting) ray, illustrated below, for reflecting and refracting surface of similar radius of curvature (FIG. 9).

FIGURE 9: The geometry of refraction/reflection leading into the fundamental relation of Gaussian approximation (all angles are exaggerated for clarity). O and I are object and image distance, respectively, n and n' are index of refraction before and after refraction/reflection, respectively, and R is surface radius of curvature; φ is field angle, α is angle of incidence to surface normal,δ is angle of normal to the axis, α' is angle to the surface normal of refracted/reflected ray and φ' is angle of refracted/reflected ray to the axis. The subscripts G and M are for "mirror" and "glass", respectively.

with the common ray height h at the surface cancelling out). Transverse magnification MT of the image formed by optical surface is given as a ratio of the image vs. and h=Oτ. image orientation is opposite to that of the object. respectively.e. αM.In the paraxial approximation. parameters related to the reflected ray have subscript M (for mirror) and those related to the refracted ray subscript G (for glass). In principle. practical way of determining location of the paraxial focus of an optical surface. with δbeing the angle between the surface normal and the axis. object height. incident medium offset one another. With φ=z/O and φ'=z/I. φ. called Lagrange invariant. angles are small enough that their sines correlate as the angles themselves. where I is the image separation and τ' the refracted/reflected angle. where O is the object separation andτ the angle of incidence. it can be written as MA=O/I. reflection and refraction). Since O. i. applying sign convention makes possible to use the same relations for both. which will form the final . 1/O is infinitely small. Angular magnification MA is defined as a ratio of the angle between axis and a ray connecting the axial object and image point through a given surface zonal height z.With h=Iτ'. Gaussian approximation is strictly valid only for rays close to the optical axis . Thus the Snell law of refraction. As before. doesn't change with reflection/refraction. nG being the glass refractive index. it is a quick. with n and n' being the refractive index of incident and transmitting media. MT=Iτ'/Oτ. so Eq. respectively. Similar scheme can illustrate what defines magnification of the image formed by an optical surface. leads into Eq. δG and φ'G are numerically negative. gives n'h'φ'=nhφ. the illustration assumes common scenario where either surface is in air (n=1). In other words. For very distant object. and O is numerically negative for refractive surface. 1. δ=h/R and φ'=h/I. Hence. nsinα=n'sinα' simplifies to nα=n'α'. α the incident ray angle with the axis and surface normal. the angle at the image vs. This is now the object distance O for the second surface (n=nG and n'=1). For thin lens in air. and n'=n G. after replacing the angles with the appropriate height/distance ratio (φ=h/O. and the quantity nhφ. orelement. substituting into the simplified Snell's law gives n(φ-δ)=n'(φ'-δ)=n'φnδ=(n'-n)δ which. first surface indici are n=1 for light traveling from left to right. MT=h'/h. change of these three parameters in the transmitting vs. according to the Snell's low. transverse image magnification can be written as MT=nI/n'O. α' the angle of refracted/reflected ray to the axis and normal. transverse magnification is for both numerically negative. and its image forms at a distance I1=nR1/(n-1) from the first surface. and R1 being the front surface radius of curvature.paraxial rays . angle at the object. these points coincide with the points of convergence of a perfect (aberration-free) system. MTMA=n/n' and. in paraxial approximation τ'=(n/n')τ. I and n' are numerically negative for mirror surface. Since. While Gaussian approximation does not provide direct information about image aberrations.and used to determine their points of convergence. respectively (according to the sign convention. 1 applied to the first surface becomes I1 being the front surface to (its) image separation. substituting MT=h'/h and MA=φ'/φ. and φ'. or MA=φ'/φ. leading to the equality δ=φ-α=φ'-α'. With α=φ-δ and α'=φ'-δ.

image separation I and objective's focal length ƒ can be expressed in a general form given by the Gaussian lens formula as: For thin lens. This implies that the focal length of thin lens equals lens-to-image distance with object at infinity. resulting in (1/I)=-2/R=1/ƒm. Relation between object distance O.indicating diverging imaging cone . image forms at an effective distance (measured from the effective pupil) I=(Lƒ2-xƒ1ƒ2)/(L--xƒ1ƒ2). the sign is positive for real object. mirror focal length is often given positive. While it is usually applied to the radius. negative . for all practical purposes.for O<ƒ). and negative when they are virtual. and those to the right positive. under the same assumption that object distance and focal length of a converging cone are both numerically positive. Likewise. both. according to the sign convention) in Eq. for two thin lenses at a separation L. where x=O/(O-ƒ1). since the effect of denser exit media for the front lens is. for practical reasons. It is also valid for mirrors and objectives in general. consequently. For large object distance O. offset by the denser incident media for the rear lens.2. with ƒCbeing the combined focal length: f = (Lf -f f )/(L-f -f ) C 2 1 2 1 2 (1. but is used for convenience when finding these distances is the sole purpose of calculation. biconvex lens has the front radius positive and the rear radius negative.2) Mirror focal length ƒm. mirror radius of curvature and its focal length are numerically negative. Based on these same principles. 1.1) The relation is still valid for two thin lenses separated by a small air-space.2. it also applies to a cemented lens (with ƒ1 and ƒ2 being the respective focal lengths in air). It can be also written without inverted radii as ƒl=R1R2/(nG-1)(R2-R1). with the object for the rear lens being the virtual image formed by the front lens. x1 and Iƒ. after substituting n=1 and n'=-1 (for incident light traveling from left to right. is defined as: with Rm being the mirror radius of curvature. For all practical purposes. According to the sign convention. Note that in the standard right-hand Cartesian coordinate systemdistances to the left are negative. This is not necessarily in accordance with every sign convention. equal to the lens' focal length ƒl according to (1/I2)=1/ƒ=[(nG-1)/R1]-(nG-1)/R2. image and focal length. or lensmaker's formula. focal length ƒC of two thin lenses in contact. far enough that the rays coming from it are practically parallel.e. . with image separation being determined according to their specific values (positive for O>ƒ. i.image at a distance I2. in terms of their focal lengths ƒ1 and ƒ2 is: 1/f = (1/f ) + (1/f ) C 1 2 (1. which comes to: This expression is referred to as thin lens equation.

from Eq. analogously to lens immersed in air. if measured from the aperture stop is also numerically negative. Denoting refractive indici from the object space to the image space as n1. paraxial image distance formed by a single refractive or reflective surface of radius R. with the latter forming the final image if this object at the distance equaling focal length. Object distance O is negative for both. and O/(I+O) approaches 1. and useable in chosen sign convention. with R1 and R2 being the front and rear surface radius of curvature. however. with the focal length ƒ and image separation I practically coinciding. 1/ƒ=[(n1-n0)/n2R1]-(n1-n2)/(n2R2). respectively. O being. the focal length is given by ƒ=n 2'/{[(n2'-n2)/R2]+(n1'-n1)n1/n1'R1}. it simplifies to a thin lens formula. smaller by a factor of n(an example being the optical system of human eye). Evidently. resulting in the correspondingly smaller diffraction pattern. thus numerically negative in the standard coordinate system. with n being the refractive index of the imaging medium. 10. lens and image space. focal length is. it can be expressed as a complete (thick lens) formula. In general. image vs. n2' (at the rear surface). i. n1' (at the front lens' surface) and n2. Likewise.For very distant objects. negative for the latter. it needs to be modified to: with nO and nI being the refractive index of object and image space. . where t is the lens axial thickness. From the geometry of either thin lens or mirror. However. form. as before. n1. for instance. Hence. As noted. defined by ƒ=nIO/(I+O). For relatively small t. 1/ƒ=[(n 1-n0)/n2R1]-(n1-n2)/(n2R2)[1-(n1-n0)t/n1R1].e. n O=nI=1. both above expressions apply when the imaging medium is air. with I. for object space refractive index n and image space refractive index n' is I=n'/[(n/O)+(n'-n)/R]. the farther from the objective its image. n/O is zero for the first surface. n2 being the refractive index of object space. and image formed by it effectively becomes object for the second surface. the effective focal length remains identical to that in air. 1. image and object distance. In order to make this expression generally applicable. for n0. object transverse magnification M=h I/hO=I/O.which compresses inside denser media. image separation I is positive for the former. 1. concave mirror surface oriented to left forms real image. the relation directly implies that the closer the object. and vice versa. nominal focal length increases with the medium refractive index. For lens. For lens in collimated light. a common circumstance. In this. Alternately. respectively. 1/O approaches zero. due to the change in the effective wavelength . From Eq. object distance. the relation is not generally applicable. and for mirror nO=1 and nI=-1. Illustration of the basic geometry of image formation is given on FIG.4. respectively. but its image separation and focal length (for object at infinity) are also measured from right to left. respectively.

or element. with Maksutov corrector). When the lens thickness is significant with respect to the object distance and focal length. located at its intersection with the optical axis. and needs to be taken into account (C). although the nodal points separation remains identical to that of the principal planes. Incident ray parallel to the optical axis (2) is directed. The corresponding points on the two principal planes are always at the same separation from axis. unlike real image. in unequifocal lenses or systems.and the focal point (F'). incident rays coming through the front focus and center of the objective (3 and 1. the chief ray). and may be located at a significant distance from it (for instance. and 2nd nodal point (N') in the 2nd principal plane. As object distance increases. Principal planes are not necessarily contained within lens. lay on a line parallel to it. A ray whose incident and final orientation doesn't change (in other words. determined in the same manner with collimated incident ray from the opposite direction (principal point P1). nodal points are displaced axially from the principal planes. with the two coinciding for the object at the surface. Also. It is preceded by the 1st principal plane. Shown is virtual image of the object inside lens' focal length. Bringing object still closer results in its virtual image shift toward it. such as human eye. to the focal point F. such image becomes its virtual object . its path before and after lens are parallel) determines lens' nodal points. all rays refracted by a lens behave as if the only refraction is taking place at the principal plane. It determines the focal length ƒ. it is also determined by the point of intersection with the incident ray arriving at the center of the objective (1. Alternatively. in effect.e.a plane normal to the axis. The height hi of the point-image of a point-object producing an oblique incoming pencil is a product of the incoming angle a and lens-to-image separation. following the surface/element producing virtual image. but finite quantity . ignoring . given as image-toobject-distance ratio.FIGURE 10: Geometry of image formation by thin lens (A) and mirror (B) in air. its intersection with ray 2 determines the image point location. Incident ray 3 coming from the same object point through the front focus F' or F refracts or reflects parallel to the optical axis. approaches zero .and the image practically forms in the focal plane. Inset at top left in (A) shows formation of virtual image. image magnification. virtual image is erect and on the same side as the object. i. Note that the above scheme is a paraxial (Gaussian) idealization. 1st nodal point (N) in the 1st principal plane. focal length equals the separation between2nd principal plane . At that point.with the field angle αreduced to a very small. after reflection or refraction. which is formed by converging rays. In the presence of an optical surface. with different incident and final medium refractive index (thus different focal lengths in these respective media). nodal points lay in the principal planes. unlike real image. For a single lens. Virtual image is also formed by a negative lens and object farther than its focal length from it. respectively) merge closer. containing the point of intersection (principal point P2) of extended path of a collimated incident ray and reversed path of it after exiting the lens . virtual image is formed by projecting diverging rays in opposite direction. the ray path through the lens becomes a factor in determining lens' focal length ƒ. practically merging together for very distant objects. hence for any given angle proportional to lens-to-image separation. Here.

such as visual axis of human eye). 10 . . N') are called six cardinal points of a lens or imaging system.lens' aberrations.the focal point . require in addition specified nodal points. 1st and 2nd principal plane points (P1. P2) and 1st and 2nd nodal point (N. or mirror. For thin lens. Thick lens also requires specified principal planes.object space and image space focal point (F and F'). for determining the angle between object point and the corresponding image point (axis of object orientation. as well as the image space focal point. thus only valid for paraxial rays. and systems where nodal point are not contained in the principal plane. The three pairs of points illustrated on FIG. a single cardinal point . These points describe its Gaussian imaging.suffice.