Astrophysics (Index)About

chromatic aberration

(focusing different wavelengths differently)

Chromatic aberration is an aberration (distortion) in the image of an optical instrument (such as a telescope), such that different wavelengths of EMR are focused differently, so, for example, a point source (such as a star) toward the side of the image and focal plane may focus like the output of a prism, with the red end of its spectrum not quite at the same point as the blue end of its spectrum. This contributes to a poorer angular resolution. Chromatic aberration is not introduced by mirrors, but lenses always contribute to it because the degree to which they redirect light (refraction) always depends upon the light's wavelength. High quality cameras use a series of lenses (compound lenses) such that they compensate for each other regarding chromatic aberration, reducing it considerably. A reason for astronomy's preference for reflector telescopes is the primary mirror and any subsequent mirrors make no contribution to chromatic aberration.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
velocity dispersion (σ)
refracting telescope