Imaging Extremes

Look at the images in the next few slides. They are all real images captured on camera. The first picture is an electron micrograph of a butterfly’s wings and the last one shows galaxies in their formative stages (Hubble ultra deep probe photo).

Awe inspiring?

So what is an image after all?

Image - a visual reproduction of object information Imaging - the process of reproducing object information What is transferred from object space to image space? - object information carried by e.m.radiation In which wavelength range? - depends on : spectral comp. of the light source/ spectral information content of object/ spectral sensitivity of detector/ desired resolution.

Is perfect imaging possible? Ideal imaging

Real life Imaging

Airy pattern

Rayleigh Criterion

Sparrow Criterion Lmin = 0.47λf / d

Lmin = 1.22 λf / d

Resolution increases with • decrease wavelength • decrease in focal length • increase imaging aperture

For the human eye: for λ=550nm f =20mm d=2mm (2-8mm) Lmin=6.7 microns ~ 0.1 mm θmin = Lmin/f = 1min of arc




The limitation (!) of the human eye The human eye as an instrument cannot magnify. It always minifi !

But humans are intelligent and inquisitive animals! The limit of angular resolution of the human eye has to be overcome. The mystery of our existence has to be unravelled We had to gather information from two extreme regions and probe

-closer and closer in the microscopic world - farther and farther into the stars

In both these regimes the 0.1 micron linear resolution and 1min of arc angular resolution proved utterly hopeless. Optical instruments like microscopes and telescopes were developed

Microscopes are used to view smaller and smaller objects. Its purpose is to magnify the object so that the image produced in the retina is at least 0.1 mm. ‘f ’ has to be small ( typical f.l. : 16 – 1.6 mm) ‘d’ cannot be made large due to design problems How small can be λ ? The lowest in the visible wavelength is ~ 0.3 μ UV microscopy is possible. X-ray microcopy not possible because of material limitations. What else?

Is it possible to utilize the wave nature of particles? De-Broglie proposed that moving particles exhibit wave-like properties The wavelength is given by λ = h / mass x velocity What particle? Of course electrons. Accelerate electrons through a potential difference to make them travel faster. The faster they travel the smaller will be its wavelength! How small? Say V=10KV, eV=1/2 mv2, λ = 0.0000123 microns = 0.123Ao Which is 10-4 magnitude smaller than visible light

Resolution will be 104 magnitude higher!
Lmin=0.00024nm = 2.4Ao
(actually equal to 2.2A using relativistic mechanics)

Electron gun

Electron beam

Electromagletic lens Scan coils
Focussing lens


To vacuum pump

Ordinary electron microscopes have a resolution of ~1nm -which can be pushed to 0.1nm = .0001micron

The Other Extreme – capturing starlight Stars are low intensity point sources To capture more light - aperture ‘d’ must be large. Large aperture calls for reflecting type objectives. Large aperture also increases resolution. Reflector of Mt.Palomar Observatory telescope is 200” in dia. A telesope is an afocal system and has angular magnification.

Ever since the dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey (c1570-c1619) assembled the first telescope and Galileo Galilei became the first of the human species to observe the craters of the moon (1609), there was no looking back.








α // α

Angular Magnification

Mθ = α/ / α

Reflecting Telescopes

Schmidt plate

Paraboloid primary mirror Secondary mirror

Schematic of a Schmidt-Cassegrainian Telescope

An almost perfect device to unravel the mystifying universe! But man proposes – nature disposes. All observatories are on mountain tops – why? In 1730 Newton writes ‘The only remedy to eliminate the tremors

of the atmosphere is a most serene and quiet air such as may be found on tops above the highest mountains above the grosser clouds.’
Atmospheric Turbulence distorts the image A distant star is a point object for all practical purposes The wave reaching the earth surface should have a plane wavefront Atmospheric turbulence distorts the wavefront It also causes the image to be vacillating We have no control over the atmosphere!

Causes of “atmospheric tremor”:  Temperature changes less than 1 deg.C cause eddies in wind velocity
 The change in velocity causes minute changes in atmospheric density  Minute variations of refractive index (~ 10-6 ) results  These minute variations accumulate  The refractive index profile of the atmosphere continually changes

Twinkling Quiver : Random interference between light waves from the same star passing through slightly different atmospheric paths : Wandering of the image Spreading : The spreading of an well defined image to a light patch

As far as technology is concerned, the human species have never resigned to fate ! There were two options available to defeat atmospheric turbulance:

May be a telescope can be placed beyond the atmosphere May be the distorted wavefront can be corrected before imaging

The first option gave us the Hubble Telescope The second option grew into a front line area of optics – Adaptive Optics

The Hubble Telescope
1914 – Dr.Lyman Spitzer proposed the outrageous idea 1960 – The US space program developed and excelled and Dr.Spitzer lobbied in the US Congress and NASA 1977 – Congress approved funds for a telescope in space and decided to name it after Edwin Hubble whose observations confirmed that the Universe is expanding – an indirect confirmation of the Big Bang Theory. 1990 – Hubble Telescope goes into orbit

It took 8 years to build, has more than 400,000 parts and 26,000 miles of electrical wiring, has five scientific instruments including a spectroscope.

Aperture of primary mirror – 94.5” Orbit – 612 km Orbital period – 97 min

Secondary mirror – 12” Orbital Speed – 28,000km/hr

Cost : 2.2 billion dollars

What is ADAPTIVE OPTICS ? Adaptive the capability of adjusting to different conditions or environment

Optics A term referring to optical components that modify the propagation of light in some way or other Adaptive Optics : The technology by which a distorted optical signal is corrected automatically, often by gathering information about the environment through which it passes – obviously through optics that can adapt itself to changing environmental needs.

We are gifted by nature with such a technology – the animal eye-brain system is a perfect example of adaptive control

Optic Nerve Closed loop architecture Oculomotor/ Trochlear Nerve

-Dilation and contraction of Iris (intensity control) -Tracking by eye movement ( image tilt control) -Squint (convergence angle control / phase)

Adaptive optics pre-supposes that light from stars that reach the earth are parallel rays, i.e., the wavefront is a plane.

Is a starlight a parallel light beam??
Sun is our nearest star at 8 light minutes away. Distance : ~8 light minutes / 150x106 kms Diameter of Earth = 12,756 km

etre m


Largest the Telescope has diameter (~ 9 metres dia) d is ~ 0.27 nanometres for the sun. The next closest star is 4 light years away!!

What does Adaptive optics aim to do?

Schmidt type phase plate

The building blocks of a typical AO system




Wavefront sensor

Waveform sensor : The Shack Hartmann Sensor – waveform tilt meas. Basic Principle: θx = 0 θy= 0

θx= x/ / f
Y/ X/

θy= y/ / f

V2 V1 V3 V4

X-tilt = [(V1+V4)-(V2+V3)]/V Y-tilt = [(V1+V2)-(V3+V4)]/V

Reproduced from a publication by Ronald Shack and Ben C.Platt

The building blocks of a typical AO system




Wavefront sensor

In other words, mirrors can be deformed in a predefined manner so as to reflect a corrected wavefront !!


Tip/Tilt mirrors Deformable mirrors

Bimorph Mirrors Segmented Mirrors

Tip/Tilt mirror Deformable mirror

The polarisation of the piezoelectric plate is chosen such that when voltage is applied to an electrode, one of the plates expands, and the other contracts. This differential expansion causes the bimorph to bend, much in the same way as a bimetallic strip will bend when heated. Bimorph structure
(flux bucket structure)

Segmented mirror of primary (10 m, 91) at SALT

Segmented mirror used in AO loop

Block diagram revisited



Effect of adaptive optics on a star image at the Keck telescope. This is cheating a bit because the star is its own guide star!