Plane Mirror Reflection
The plane mirror is perhaps the most familiar of all reflecting surfaces. It usually
consists of a flat or planar piece of glass on which a silver coating has been placed that
reflects visible light radiation. The motion of this radiation, while wave-like in nature,
can be simplified by drawing rays that represent the direction of wave propagation.
Through the use of these rays, you can determine general features of reflection, including
a simple relation between the angle of incidence and the angle of reflection for radiation
that is reflected from a surface. y !angle of angle of incidence or reflection, " we mean
the angle between the respective ray #incident or reflected$ and a vector that is normal to
the surface of the mirror. %or a plane mirror, this normal vector is simply perpendicular
to the plane of the mirror. The !law" of reflection states that the angle of incidence (θ
for an incident ray is e&ual to the angle of reflection (θ
). This law is illustrated below.
Reflection from a Plane Mirror
This law of reflection has some interesting conse&uences. (hen an ob)ect is placed in
front of the mirror, the image will appear to be situated at the same distance behind the
mirror as the ob)ect is situated in front of the mirror. This image will appear to be situated
at the same distance behind the mirror as the ob)ect is situated in front of the mirror. The
image will be hori*ontally inverted #left becoming right, and vice versa$, and the si*e of
the imaged ob)ect will be the same as the actual ob)ect.
To illustrate these ideas, consider a simple ob)ect consisting of only two points, +
and . To see that the ob)ect distance (D) is e&ual to the image distance (D') we first
draw the point +, the rays emanating from +, and the rays reflecting from the mirror.
Pro)ecting the reflected rays behind the mirror and determining their point of intersection
locates the !virtual image" of point +, or +,. #(e say an image is !virtual" when it only
seems like light is emanating from the image-s position.$ (e will then see that the
distance between + and the mirror is the same as the distance between +, and the mirror.
In addition, by adding point to the diagram, we will note that the distance between +
and in the ob)ect space is e&ual to the distance between +, and , in the image space.



In today-s e.periment, you will try to verify the law of reflection by testing the
relationship between incident and reflective angles, as well as measuring ob)ect and
image distances and si*es. /ou will position pins to mark points along the imaginary rays
of light. The pattern of pin positions will then trace out the paths of the light rays.
Equipment: mirrors, styrofoam, pins, paper tape.
0. 1se masking tape or pins to secure a piece of white paper to the styrofoam board.
1se the masking tape to secure the wood block to the paper. The mirror should be
placed in the center of the paper.
2. 1sing a straight pin as ob)ect +, place it through the paper at appro.imately 23 from
the surface of the mirror and 43 to the left of the center of the mirror. 5abel the point
of insertion as + on the paper.
4. 5ooking hori*ontally into the mirror, locate the image of +. This will be the point of
insertion of the pin located at A. +lways line up the points of insertion, where the
pins penetrate the paper. Move your eye so that you are a little to the right of +.
Place a pin in the path of the incident ray from +. The pin will be placed in such a
way that it hides point +. Place two more pins in the path of the reflected ray such
that when viewed together into the mirror, all the pins appear in a straight line. /ou
should have a total of 6 pins in the paper. These pins will determine the location and
direction of the incident and reflected rays. Remove all the pins except the very first
and label the points of insertion to correspond to ray +
6. Move your eye a little bit more to the right and repeat step 4, labeling the points as
corresponding to ray +
. +gain, you should end up with 6 pins #the original plus the 4
you added$ when you are finished. 7ow remove all 6 pins.
8. Insert another pin as ob)ect about 23 from the surface of the mirror and about 23 to
the left of the center of the mirror. #This point should be about 0" to the left of
insertion point + along a line parallel to the mirror surface.$ 5abel the point of
insertion as .
9. Repeat steps 4 and 6 for the new ob)ect, finding rays
for ob)ect , this
time placing the second pin to the left of point .
:. Make two marks to represent where the ends of the mirror were.
;. Remove the block and mirror from the paper.
<. 5abel at least one pair of incident and reflected angles.
0. 1se a ruler to construct and e.tend the reflected part of rays +
and +
behind the
mirror until they intersect. 5abel the point of intersection as +,.
2. Repeat for reflected rays
, labeling the point of intersection as ,.
4. 1se a ruler to construct the incident parts of rays +
, +
, and
, and e.tend
them until they intersect with their respective reflected rays.
6. =raw a line through the points where the respective incident and reflected rays
intersect. This line is the 3effective reflective surface.3
8. 1se a drafting triangle to construct a line normal to the reflecting surface to points +,
+,, , and ,. Question 1. Is the distance from + to the surface e&ual to the distance
from +, to the surface> (hat about and ,> Report the distances measured in
9. 1se a protractor to determine θ
and θ
for all the incident and reflected rays. /ou
should have four incident angles and four reflected angles. Question 2. +re they the
same for their respective rays> If they are different, by how many degrees do they
:. 1se a ruler to determine the distance between + and , and +, and ,. Question 3.
+re the ob)ect and image si*es e&ual> If they are different, how different are they>
?.press your answer &uantitatively.
0. Question 4. @ummari*e your results for this e.periment.
2. Question 5. 5ooking at your results for this e.periment, what would be the image of
the palm of a left hand in a plane mirror>
4. Aonsider the conve. mirror, a mirror that is spherically curved like the back of a
spoon. The reflection law still applies, but parallel rays striking different parts of the
mirror have different incident angles, since the angle is measured from a perpendicular at
the point of incidence. Question . =raw the case of an image reflected in a conve.
mirror. Is it larger or smaller than the original> Aloser to the mirror or farther away>
6. Question !. 7ow consider two plane mirrors placed at right angles to one another.
(hat will the image of the palm of a left hand be in this mirror> /ou may want to draw a
ray diagram to solve this or, you may want to solve this by doing a simple e.periment.
?rror +nalysisB
Report what you believe are sources of error in this e.periment. (hy did we have to use
the 3effective3 reflecting surface for the mirror>
Plane "irror #e$lection
PC/@ 0406
Prof. T.?. Aoan
@pring DEE
Plane "irror #e$lection
PC/@ 0406
Prof. T.?. Aoan
@pring DEE

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