Telescope Resolution & Distance Between Stars using the Rayleigh Limit

Previously, the Rayleigh Criterion and the concept of maximum resolution was explained. As mentioned, Rayleigh found this formula performing an experiment with telescopes and stars, exploring the concept of resolution. This formula may be used to determine the distance between two stars.

θ = 1.22 * λ / D.

Consider a telescope of lens diameter of 2.4 meters for a star of visible white light at approximately 550 nanometer wavelength. The distance between the two stars in lightyears may be calculated as follows. The stars are approximately 2.6 million lightyears away from the lens.

θ = 1.22 * (550*10^(-9)m)/(2.4m)

θ =2.80*10^(-7) rad

Distance between two objects (s) at a distance away (r), separated by angle (θ): s = rθ

s = rθ = (2.0*10^(6) ly)*(2.80*10^(-7)) = 0.56 ly.

This means that the maximum resolution for the lens size, star distance from the lens and wavelength would be that two stars would need to be separated at least 0.56 lightyears for the two stars to be distinguishable.

telescope

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