Photonics Dictionary

astronomical mirror

An astronomical mirror, also known as a telescope mirror or primary mirror, is a key component of a reflecting telescope. It serves as the primary optical element responsible for gathering and focusing light from distant astronomical objects, such as stars, galaxies, and planets.

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Astronomical mirrors are typically made of glass or other materials with high optical quality, such as fused silica or borosilicate glass. They have a precisely shaped reflective surface that is often coated with a thin layer of aluminum or silver to enhance reflectivity.

The shape of an astronomical mirror is usually parabolic or hyperbolic, rather than spherical, to correct for spherical aberration and focus incoming light to a point. This shape allows the mirror to collect light over a larger aperture and focus it to a precise focal point, where additional optical elements such as eyepieces or secondary mirrors can be used to further magnify and observe the image.

Astronomical mirrors come in various sizes, ranging from a few inches to several meters in diameter, with larger mirrors capable of collecting more light and resolving finer details of celestial objects. They are critical components of modern telescopes used in professional astronomy, as well as amateur telescopes used by hobbyists for observing the night sky.
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