Ray Tracing Examples (1) Curved Mirrors

The following ray tracing examples all utilize Fermat’s principle in examining ray traces incident at a mirror.

Example 1. Draw a ray trace for a ray angled at a convex mirror.

The ray makes a 40 degree angle with the normal of the mirror at the point of incidence. In accordance with the law of reflection (Fermat’s Principle), the ray will exit at 40 degrees on the other side of the normal.

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The above example shows a single ray at an angle. Often, rays are drawn together in a group of parrallel rays. This example shows how an incident set of parallel rays will no longer be parallel when reflected by a non-uniform (not flat) mirror surface.

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This example brings up an important concept that happens especially with concave mirrors. Two rays drawn seem to be directed towards the same point, known as the focal point. A focal point however is only consistent for smaller angles. The third ray at the bottom makes a 55 degree incident angle with the normal of the surface. The reflected ray is also 55 degrees separated from the normal but is directed to the other side of the normal. The ray does not converge at the focal point as the others do. This effect is known as an aberration and may be discussed further at length in a later article.

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This example makes use of the above concept of focal point. An object placed at the focal point will not make an image at the focal point. This is useful if for instance, some type of lense or collecter should be placed at the focus of the mirror. This can be done without worry for it causing disturbances to the image that is formed at the focal point by the reflected rays.

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