Questions tagged [optics]

Behaviour and properties of light, and its interaction with matter, particularly in detection of light.

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What is a pupil slicer, and how does it work with anamorphic optics in VLT's ESPRESSO Echelle spectrograph?

This excellent answer points to ESPRESSO, - Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations. From there I looked at the Instrument Description and Performance page. ...
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4 votes
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Can a telescope ever increase the apparent luminance of an extended object?

From what I know about common telescope designs, telescopes don't increase the apparent luminance of extended objects compared to the luminance seen with the naked eye. In this sense extended objects ...
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How does making a refracting telescope very long reduce the chromatic aberration of an uncorrected lens?

Below are two cropped views of "Johannes Hevelius's 8 inch telescope with an open work wood and wire "tube" that had a focal length of 150 feet to limit chromatic aberration." from ...
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7 votes
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What makes small interferometers useful? Like NIRISS on JWST

NIRISS is an instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. It has a "non-redundant aperture mask" which obviously covers most of the area of the sensor. It seems to be advantageous for high contrast ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Have there been studies of "old photons" to see just how constant things like Planck constant has been?

The question Are photons aged? and answers therein have got me thinking: I vaguely remember hearing something about experiments where "old photons" were collected by large telescopes from very ...
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16 votes
5 answers
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Has anyone ever tried to make a simple telescope using ice?

I grew up with long cold winters, and saw a lot of remarkably transparent ice formed by refreezing meltwater, both in puddles and ponds, and in large icicles. I'd always thought about making optical ...
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How did Michelson measure the diameters of jupiter's moons using optical interferometry?

In Betelgeuse: How its Diameter was measured (Chant, C. A., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 15, p.133, Bibliographic Code: 1921JRASC..15..133C) the author says: The paper in ...
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8 votes
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Where exactly is the modification that first corrected the spherical aberration in Hubble's primary mirror?

The April 2015 CBS News article How NASA fixed Hubble's flawed vision - and reputation describes the modification taken to the Hubble Space Telescopes by the Space Shuttle that was used to correct for ...
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What are the deciding optical factors between a refractive and reflective space telescope optics as a function of aperture? (visible light)

Reading Yale News' Lighting a path to Planet Nine: To detect objects that are otherwise undetectable, Rice and Laughlin employ a method called “shifting and stacking.” They “shift” images from a ...
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5 votes
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What's still needed before we can observe orbits of exomoons thereby weighing exoplanets?

Comments below this answer to How do we weigh a planet? point out that we currently cannot (or at least have not) detect moons around exoplanets, much less measure the sizes and periods of their ...
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What would "the next GAIA"-like instrument be like? Could it simply be a 3 to 5x scaled-up version of the same beautiful system?

This excellent, thorough and well-sourced answer to Has a gravitational microlensing event ever been predicted? If so, has it been observed? mentions several works where hundreds to thousands of ...
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1 vote
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Do point spread functions from large single telescopes using adaptive optics still look like Airy functions for narrow-band filters?

this answer to Claim that 30-m class telescopes will have resolution far superior to Hubble: true? mentions ...the possibility of attaining near diffraction-limited images using adaptive optics. The ...
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9 votes
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Are there any mirrors in space?

We have encountered galaxies that act as lenses, magnifying the light coming from behind them. This is super fascinating and it makes me wonder what other optic tools we might have at our disposal. ...
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When are wedge prisms used to correct chromatic effects of atmospheric refraction? (atmospheric dispersion)

Atmospheric refraction (shown below) happens because Earth's atmosphere has an index of refraction that differs from unity. @MikeG's comment mentions that this refraction would have a chromatic ...
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5 votes
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How long does lunar opposition surge last? Are there measurements of the full Moon getting suddenly brighter?

Wikipedia's opposition surge is a short article and forwards shadow hiding and coherent backscattering as proposed mechanisms, but it doesn't really explain how much the brightness of the Moon ...
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What is it about the layout of the three gratings in a Bahtinov mask that makes its indicate focus in this way?

The question Lucky imaging with Celestron 14 - is this result reasonable? includes a beautiful example of a focus test using a Bahtinov mask and the image below from Deep Sky Watch's Home Made ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Not getting quality images in telescope

I have a Newtonian telescope (Celestron 130 eq) with 5.2 inch (~132 mm) aperture with 650 mm focal length, Spherical mirror. And having 4mm, 10mm, 12.5mm, 20mm,20mm (erecting eyepiece), a 3x and 1.5x ...
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Are they really sure this isn't an Airy disk? How was that ruled out?

How do they know that this is a spherical shell of gas, and not just something like an Airy pattern-like artifact produced by the VLT's large interferometric aperture? Image from: https://www.eso.org/...
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1 answer
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What is the cause of all of these sharp, concentric rings around bright stars in this HST image?

ESA's HST page heic1819 — Photo Release; Hubble reveals cosmic Bat Shadow in the Serpent’s Tail is of course beautiful and stunning, but my eyes are drawn to the diffraction artifacts of the bright ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Lunar terminator illusion

Sometimes, you can see the Moon high in the night sky, which is illuminated from the side where Sun goes down but slightly from above. It is paradoxical when Sun hangs at the lower level above the ...
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Why does X-shooter use double passes through prisms for Echelle cross-dispersion instead of gratings?

The catchy title Down-the-barrel observations of a multiphase quasar outflow at high redshift: VLT/X-shooter spectroscopy of the proximate molecular absorber at z=2.631 towards SDSS J001514+184212 ...
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What does a narrow-band "point spread function" look like for long exposures from the VLT's large interferometric aperture?

In interferometric radio astronomy UV plots are the first step in understanding what a point spread function (PSF) will look like for a given location in the sky observed over a period of time. The ...
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What is the faintest magnitude a telescope can see?

This website claims: The space telescope can detect objects as faint as 31st magnitude... It's referring to Hubble, but does not cite any source or math. How do you calculate the faintest (...
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How did Johannes Hevelius' long telescope work? Why all the round holes?

The drawing below, found in Wikimedia and at lib.harvard.edu is of a very long tubed aerial telescope. I believe it is taken from his 1673 work Machinae coelestis. I've always wondered about the ...
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What exactly is a Hamiltonian telescope? Is this one?

This comment on the current answer to Why is this telescope so short? How hard is it to make such a fast primary? says In this forum topic Borisov appears to call it an f/1.5 Hamiltonian. Wikipedia'...
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How did I flip some mirrors around in the dark at 3 AM and change the focal length of a 24 inch Boller and Chivens?

Current answer(s) to How do telescopes "zoom" and change angle of view? are "they don't", but traditional large genera-purpose observatory telescopes do sometimes (often?) have ...
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How to make a 65 cm lens with a 20 cm hole in it for a Hamiltonian telescope?

This answer to What (the heck) is a Hamiltonian telescope? Is this one? confirms that the telescope in the question linked there is indeed as described and that the first lens is a full 65 cm aperture ...
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9 votes
2 answers
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Why aren't secondary mirrors offset to get rid of diffraction spikes due to the support vanes?

Some kind of ellipsoidal shape mirror could reflect to a secondary mirror which is not in the way of the infalling light. Two advantages are immediately obvious. The primary mirror would not be partly ...
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How can there only be "11 phonons" in the mirrors of LIGO interferometers?

LIGO is an incredibly sensitive detector of small changes in space due to the passing of gravitational waves and uses some very high-level mathematics and physics and experimental techniques to drive ...
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1 answer
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Are X-ray telescopes with glancing angle surfaces basically "funny-looking" Cassegrain telescopes mathematically?

In this answer I included the image below of a reflective X-ray telescope. It is made from two elements; the first is concentric shells of glancing (high incidence) angle paraboloidal surfaces, and ...
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2 votes
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Within a given image of a multiple-image producing gravitational lens, does Fermat's principle apply?

The question Does gravitational lensing provide time evolution information? is excellent! When we see multiple images of the same object because of the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, do all the ...
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1 answer
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What telescope is this, and how does it work?

In the excellent chemistry series of Periodic Videos' episode Amazing piece of metal (speculum) there is an interesting showing and discussion of Isaac Newton's first telescope. At ...
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How well conserved is etendue in extreme gravitational lensing scenarios?

This excellent answer to Could dark matter exist in the Universe in the form of sufficiently dense objects? includes the following image and description: Light from the background galaxy circles a ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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How do telescopes "zoom" and change angle of view?

Images from the Hubble Space Telescope have widely different angles of view. Is this only the result of composing multiple images, or can the telescope itself change its "zooming" optically, ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Angular diameter of the Sun's reflection from the ocean, seen from Sun-Earth L1?

I'm trying to understand how smooth the reflecting ocean surface would need to be to produce such a small bright spot as seen from the DSCOVR satellite at Sun-Earth L1. It appears to be only about 8E-...
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1 answer
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Telescope collimation issue

Recently, I purchased a Chinese 8 inch reflector telescope from local store. When I observing stars and planets I've been having trouble getting really sharp image from this telescope. I observe Venus ...
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1 answer
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How does a Bahtinov mask work?

For focusing the image of a telescope, one can use a Bahtinov mask. How does this mask work, and how did Mr Bahtinov get the idea to cut such a peculiar shape? Is it possible for me to design my own ...
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Why can't the surfaces of stars be observed?

If I'm correctly informed, only three stars: Sol, Betelgeuse and Altair have surfaces which have been resolved by telescopes. All other stars are only point sources of light, even in the greatest of ...
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Why does this large Newtonian telescope's front cover have two or three holes in it?

The Michael Bernardo video How to use an Equatorial Mount for Beginners shows a large Newtonian telescope on an equatorial mount. The cover of the telescope's large aperture shows what looks like ...
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Why is the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope's field of view shaped like a PacMan "ghost"?

The Curious Droid YouTube video NASA's Mega Hubble - The Roman Space Telescope illustrates the shape of the telescope's field of view and the outline has a smile or frown shape. For whatever reason it ...
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What are the pros and cons of different types of echelle spectrograph cross-dispersers?

Echelle spectrographs, operating at high resolving power, typically consist of an echelle grating with a low numbers of lines/mm, used with high diffraction orders (often $n=$50-100). To separate the ...
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2 answers
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Arago Spot in the Shadows of Celestial Bodies

Recently, I've watched this video by Veritasium describing Poisson's Spot, or the Arago Spot. It is explained in the video that near circular (or spherical) objects can produce this optical effect, ...
2 votes
1 answer
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How does eyepiece exit pupil diameter affect image clarity and viewing experience?

This answer to Not Able to View Objects with Barlow Lens includes a calculation of exit pupil diameter as a way to address the limits of useful magnification when observing planets with a small ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Telescope and its construction

I want to build a reflecting telescope in my home. I've attached a drawing of my plan that contains some explanations of what I understand so far, and highlights the parts of the design for which I ...
1 vote
1 answer
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Does this CHEOPS first light image imply bad astronomy?

@KeithMcClary's comment under lousy mirror corrected by software links to Bad Astronomy's First Light for the Exoplanet Hunter Mission CHEOPS Goes Tetrahedral which shows the image below. I understand ...
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1 answer
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How are "parallel fields" implemented on the Hubble Space Telescope?

The Phys.org news item Hubble is the ultimate multitasker: Discovering asteroids while it's doing other observations mentions the Hubble Space Telescope's use of parallel fields: A couple years ago, ...
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1 vote
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What are the effects of using non-spherical lenses in refracting telescopes?

Non-spherical (or non-circular) mirrors for reflecting telescopes are common and discussed in many places... But what about elliptical, parabolic or hyperbolic lenses?
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Has lunar opposition surge ever been observed from Earth? From Earth orbit?

This thorough answer to How long does lunar opposition surge last? Are there measurements of the full Moon getting suddenly brighter? details observations of lunar opposition surge by the Clementine ...
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Does anybody recognize this kind of prism?

Supplemental to this answer to Did Edmund Scientific 4¼ inch Newtonians have 90° prisms as secondary mirrors in the 1970's? I was poking around a bit further and ran across this "1960's Edmund ...
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