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Ray Optics

Behaviour of light !!
Light is an electromagnetic wave and during its propagation it encounters various types of
obstacles. There are circumstances where this type of wave behaves to a good approximation as
if they travel in straight line. For this, it is necessary that the obstacles have dimensions much
greater than wavelength of light. This special case of wave behaviour is considered in
geometrical optics.
For dealing with geometrical or ray optics it has to be defined that what is the essence of this
particular subject. To study this the first need is to define a ray.
A ray is defined to be the line along which light propagates. It is the normal to all the wavefronts
of that particular disturbance. Since it defines the direction of propagation the formation of
images or distraction by another medium can be better explained because the process of
reflection, refraction etc. can be visualised in a better way. The main principle governing the
whole of ray optics is Fermats principle which says that in going from one medium to another,
the path followed by a light ray is that for which the time taken is either minimum or maximum.
Definition :
We know that a ray of light is composed of packets of energy known as photons. The photons
have the ability of colliding with any surface.
Thus the photons transfer momentum & energy in the same way as the transfer of momentum &
energy take place between any two particles during collision.

For elastic collision a particle gets rebounded with same speed where as the direction of its
motion changes due to the impact (impulsive) force offered by the other colliding particle.

Similarly when a photon is incident on a fine plane surface, it gets rebounded. This is known as
What are the laws of reflection ?
There are two laws governing the physical phenomenon of reflection.
They are(i) The incident ray, normal to the interface and the reflected ray lie on the same plane.
(ii) The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection.

We can observe from the figure that two rays coming from a point object O are reflected at the
points M & N. If the reflected rays are produced back they meet at a point P. This point P is
known as image.
Since the image is formed at the back of the mirror, it is known as virtual image .
Geometrically we can see that object distance is equal to image distance from mirror surface p
(As OMP & ONP are isosceles triangles)
Properties of image formed by plane mirror

Properties of image formed by plane mirror

(a) the image is virtual erect and laterally reversed.

(b) the image size = object size
(c) object distance = image distance
(d) when the plane mirror is rotated through an angle ,
the reflected ray is rotated through an angle 2.
(e) the numbers of images formed by the combination of two mirrors inclined at an angle ,

Where [ ] represents the greatest integer

e.g. When two plane mirrors are placed parallel to each other ,
then = 0
Therefore infinite number of images are formed.
Example : If an object moves towards a plane mirror with a speed V at an angle to the
perpendicular to the plane of the mirror, find the relative velocity between the object & the
Solution :

Velocity of the object relative to the image is given as

Exercise 1: Prove that if the plane mirror rotates through an angle , the reflected ray for any
incident ray is deviated through an angle 2.
Example : Find the minimum length of the mirror required to visualise the complete image of
the body of a person of height H.
Solution: The person must have to obtain a reflected ray one from his head & another reflected

ray from the feet.

Geometrically, AC = AB + BC where
AB = x/2 and BC = (Hx)/2
AC = x/2 + (Hx)/2
AC = H/2

i.e. length of the mirror is just half the height of person.

Show that if a mirror is rotated by angle the reflected ray rotates through an angle 2 When the
mirror rotates by , the angle between the normals is also equal to .
Solution :

Incidence angle for M = i +

Angle of reflection for M = i +
i.e. N2OR2 = i +
N1OR2 = N1ON2 + N2OR2
or R1OR2 = N2OR2 -N2OR1
Hence the reflected ray rotates by an angle 2
Exercise 2: Find the number of images formed when two plane mirrors are placed at right angle
to each other & locate the images by drawing ray diagram.
Exercise 3: Draw the ray diagram for the images formed by an object placed in between two
plane parallel mirrors due to both the reflecting surfaces
Reflection at spherical surface

The reflection takes place in such a way that, the angle of incidence = angle of reflection
=> i = r
F principal focus; where the parallel light rays meet (concave) or seems to be coming from
(convex) on the optical axis
C Center of curvature; center of the sphere, a part of which is the given mirror.
P Pole; Geometrical center of the spherical reflecting surface (mirror)
f Focal length; the distance between the focal point F & the pole P.
Cartesian Sign Convention

(i) All distances are measured from the pole of the mirror / lens / refracting surface which should
be placed at the origin.
(ii) Distances measured along the direction of incident rays are taken as positive.
(iii) Distances measured along a direction opposite to the incident rays are taken as negative.
(iv) Distances above the principal axis are positive.

(v) Distances below the principal axis are negative.

(vi) Angles when measured from the normal, in anti-clockwise direction are positive, while in
clockwise direction are negative.
(vii)The focal length of the concave mirror / lens is negative & that of convex mirror / lens is
positive; focal length of plane mirror is infinity, because its radius of curvature is infinitely large.
How can the formation of images be visualised ?
Images can be visualised by drawing ray diagram. Some of the rays to be used to draw a ray
diagram are listed:
(i) A ray parallel to the principal axis passes through the principal focus (or appears to diverge
from the principal focus) after reflection.
(ii) A ray passing through the principal focus becomes parallel to the principal axis after
(iii) A ray passing through the centre of curvature of the mirror retraces its own path.
(iv) A ray incident at the pole is reflected with equal inclination to the principal axis.
Mirror formula

Consider the shown figure where O is a point object and I is corresponding image.
CB is normal to the mirror at B.
By laws of reflection, OBC = CBI =
=> + = 2

For small aperture of the mirror, , , 0

=> tan , tan , tan , P P (for paraxial rays)
=> tan + tan = 2 tan

Power of mirror

Power of mirror = 1/f

Where f should be taken in meter with proper sign
i.e. ve for concave and +ve for convex.
Problems on : Mirror formula

Q. A concave mirror form on a screen a real image of twice the linear dimension of the object.
The object and the screen are then moved until the image is 3 times the size of the object. If the
shift of the screen in 25cm, determine the shift of the object and the focal length of the mirror.
We have 1/v + 1/u = 1/f


or, m = v/u = (v/f ) 1

From the given data:2 = (v/f ) 1
and , 3 = (v+25/f ) 1
Solving the above equations for v and f, we get

V = 75cms. and f = 25cms.

From equation (1) we can write
u = vf/(v-f)
Substituting the data, we get
Before shifting: u = 2575/(75-25) = 37.5 cm
After shifting: u = 25100/(100-25) = 33.3 cm
Shift of the object = 33.3 37.5 = 4.2 cm
Lateral magnification

In new cartesian sign convention, we define magnification in such a way that a negative sign (of
m) implies inverted image and vice-versa. A real image is always inverted one and a virtual one
is always erect. Keeping these points in mind and that the real object and its real image would lie
on the same sides in case of mirror and on opposite sides in case of lenses, we define m as in
case of reflection by spherical mirror as :
m = v/u
Example : A short linear object of length L lies on the axis of a spherical mirror of focal length f
at a distance b from the mirror. Find the size of the image ?

Solution :

Negative sign implies that object is lying between u and u + du and the image will lie between v
and v dv
Example : A point source S is placed midway between two converging mirrors having equal
focal length f as shown in the figure. Find the values of d for which only one image is formed.

Solution : If the image is formed of the object, it must be formed at the center of curvature C.

since only one image is formed by two mirrors, the object should be placed at their common
center of curvature as shown in the figure; the mirrors are the part of a sphere of center
=> 2f + 2f = d

=> d = 4f
Note : If the distance between the mirrors is 2f then also image will be found at the same
position. So second value of d = 2f
Exercise 4: A concave mirror forms a real image on a screen of thrice the linear dimension of the
object. Object and screen are moved until image is twice the size of the object. If the shift of the
object is 6cm, find the shift of the screen and the focal length of the mirror.

In a homogeneous medium light travels along a straight line. When light changes medium it
deviates from its path. Variation of the path of the ray due to variation of the medium is called
To study the refraction we need to understand the term refractive index. We will use the alphabet
n to represent the refractive index.
Absolute refractive index of a medium is equal to
n = speed of light in vacuum /speed of light in medium
Laws of Refraction :

1st Law : Incident ray, refracted ray and normal to the interface separating the media at the
point of incidence all lie in same plane.

2nd Law:- Suppose light travels from medium I to medium II and absolute refractive indices of
the corresponding media are n1 and n2.
If 1 and 2 are the angle of incidence and angle of refraction respectively then
n1 sin 1 = n2 sin 2 . This law is known as Snells law.
From above expression, sin 2 = (n1/n2) sin 1
If n1 > n2, then sin 2 > sin 1, hence 2 > 1 as a result refracted ray will bend away from
normal. Converse of this statement is also true.

Refraction at plane surface

First of all we define the term normal vision. If object and viewer both are in different media and
eyes lie near the normal to the inter-face which passes through the object then vision is known as
normal vision. For the normal vision angle of incidence and corresponding angle of refraction,
both are very small.

Relation between real and apparent depth (for normal vision) :

In the figure shown O is an object placed in medium II and viewer is situated in medium I
from figure

For the sake of convenience here we replace n1 by nv (refractive index of the medium in which
viewer is situated) and n2 = n0 (refractive index of the medium in which object is placed).

If nv > no then apparent depth is more than real depth and vice-versa.
Shift = real depth apparent depth

Refraction through a number of media

(for normal vision):

When there is a denser medium between a real object and an observer (in air), the object appears
to be shifted towards the observer .

If an object is placed at O, the ray of light coming from O gets refracted at different interfaces 1,
2 & 3 etc. to produce different images I1 I2, I3 etc. respectively. Then I3 is the final image.
The apparent shift of the image due to medium 1 = t1 = t1(11/n1)
Similarly the apparent shift due to the medium 2, 3 etc can be given as
t2 = t2(11/n2) , t3 = t3(11/n3) .etc
The net (total) apparent shift of the image

(The apparent depth) = Real depth apparent shift

(Apparent depth) = (t1 + t2 + t3 + .) t1(11/n1) t2(11/n2) t3(11/n3) .

Exercise : Find the apparent depth and apparent shift of an object placed at the bottom of the a
vessel containing a glass slab of thickness 10 cm and water of height 50 cm. as shown in the

Total internal reflection

The medium whose refractive index is greater is known as optically denser medium whereas one
which has smaller value is known as optically rarer medium.

In the figure shown light travels from medium I to medium II, n1 and n2 corresponds to their
refractive indices and n1 > n2
For any angle of incidence 1 in medium I corresponding angle of refraction in medium II is 2
n1 sin 1 = n2 sin 2

as n1 > n2, sin 2 > sin 1 and hence 2 > 1

In this way for a certain value of 1 , 2 will be equal to 90.
This value of 1 is known as critical angle(C).
If 1 > critical angle, 2 should be greater than 90.
This implies that the ray will return to the previous medium.

For the angle of incidence greater than critical angle light does not transmit into medium II rather
it reflects back to the medium I
This phenomenon is called total internal reflection.
If c is the critical angle then
sin 90 = n1/n2 => sin c = n2/n1
If medium II is air then n2 1.
=> sin c = 1/n1
Example : A small coin is placed at the bottom of a cylindrical vessel of radius R and depth h. If
a transparent liquid of refractive index n completely filled into the cylinder , find the minimum
fraction of the area that should be covered in order not to see the coin , if viewed form top of
Solution : When the rays coming from the coin incident at an angle c, they will be totally

=> Minimum area that should be covered = A = r2 where r = radius of the circular aperture.
r can be found as r = h tan c
when c can be given by the formula

The total area of the aperture through which coin can be seen
A = R2
The fraction of aperture through which coin can covered

Exercise 6: A black spot is situated at the body center of a transparent glass (n = 1.5) cube of
edge 0.1 m, placed on a table. What minimum fraction of the cube must be covered in order not
to visualise the spot.
Refraction through a prism

What happens when the two faces of the medium are not parallel to each other i.e. in case of
A ray of light striking at one face of prism gets refracted twice and emerges out from the other
side as shown in the above figure. The angle between the emergent and the incident rays is called
the angle of deviation and the angle between the two refracting faces is called the angle of the
prism (or refracting angle).
Refraction through a prism

The incident ray 1 gets refracted at P. Snells law of refraction yields,

Then the refracted ray 2 gets refracted at Q.
Applying Snells law we obtain

=> i = sin1 (n sin r2) .(ii)

In PNQ , PNQ = 180 (r1 + r2)
In OPQ , POQ = 180 (OPQ + OQP)
=> A = 180 [(NPO NPQ) + (NQO PQN)]
=> A = 180 [(90 r1) + (90 r2)]
=> A = (r1 + r2) ..(iii)
Using eq. (i), (ii) & (iii) we can easily find any three parameters like , r1 , r2 , i etc if the others
are given.

Deviation of the incident ray

Referring to the given figure, the angle of deviation can be given as

=> = (i r1) + (i r2)
=> = (i + i) (r1 + r2)
Putting r1 + r2 = A we obtain
= i + i A
Refraction in prism / Minimum Deviation

From (i ~ ) graph we conclude that deviation is minimum when, ray of light passes
symmetrically through the prism , i = i
=> m = 2i A
=> m + A = 2 i

Since i = i => r = r Putting r = r

we obtain r + r = A
2r = A => r = A/2
Putting i & r in terms of A and m in Snells Law
n = Sini/Sinr

we obtain an expression for minimum deviation m as

Note : If the angle of prism is very small, sin A A

=> m = (n 1)A
This equation is valid only when the refracting angle of the prism is very small.
Since prisms generally are made of optically denser medium w.r.t. air, can the phenomenon
of total internal reflection take place over here ?
The phenomenon of total internal internal reflection can also be observed in case of prisms. This
can be understood by the following cases.
When the angle of incidence for a prism is 90 degree then the ray just grazes along the surface of
the prism . This is known as grazing incidence and in this case the angle of refraction at the first
refracting surface is equal to the critical angle of the material of the prism.

Similarly, when the angle of emergence is equal to 90 degree (i.e. ray is incident at the critical
angle at the second refracting face) then the case is of grazing emergence.
Both, in case of grazing emergence or grazing incidence, the angle of deviation for the prism is
Recall: The wavelength is inverse the proportional to the refractive index.
Refraction at curved surface

Consider the point object O placed in the medium with refractive index equal to n1 .
As n1 sin i = n2 sin r , and for small aperture i , r > 0
=> n1 i = n2 r
=> n1( + ) = n2( )
=> n1 + n2 = (n2 n1)
As aperture is small, tan , tan , for paraxial rays
=> n1 tan + n2 tan = (n2 n1) tan

Applying sign convention,

i.e., u = PO , v = PI ,
R = PC
For a spherical surface,

This is the relation between the image distance, object distance, radius of curvature and the
refractive indices of the two medium for a single refracting surface .
The symbols should be carefully remembered as : n2 refractive index of the medium into
which light rays are entering ; n1 refractive index of the medium from which light rays are
coming. Care should also be taken while applying the sign convention to R.
Problems On Refraction at curved surface

Illustration 10: Shown in the figure is a spherical surface of radius of curvature R & R.I. (n =
1.5). Find the distance of the silvering of the plane surface so as to form an image at the pole due
to a very distant object.


Since light comes from very distant object


Due to presence of the plane mirror, the image formed at I behaves as a virtual object for the
plane mirror & a real image I is formed in front of the plane mirror, at the pole P.
=> x + x = v
=> x = v/2
x = 1.5R
Lens makers formula

Lens is a transparent medium bounded by two surfaces, at least one of them must be curved. We
have to study about thin lens. A lens is said to be thin if the gap between two surfaces is very
Lens makers formula

Consider the thin lens shown here with the two refracting surfaces having radii of curvature
equal to R1and R2 respectively.
The refractive indices of this surrounding medium and of the material of the lens are n1 and n2
Now using the result that we obtained for refraction at single spherical surface we get,
For first surface,
. . . (1)
For second surface,
. . . (2)
Adding (1) and (2),

When u = , v = f


Note : A lens is converging if its focal length is positive and diverging if focal length is negative
(in cartesian sign convension). From this we can conclude that a convex lens need not
necessarily be a converging and a concave lens diverging
Limitations of the lens makers formula:
1. The lens should be thin so that the separation between the two refracting surface should be
2. The medium on either side of the lens should be same.
If any of the limitation is violated then we have to use the refraction at the curved surface
formula for both the surfaces.
Power of the lens

Power of lens is = 1/f

where f should be in meters with proper sign i.e. +ve for convex and ve for concave. P is in
Dioptre .
Problems on Equiconvex lens

Illustration : A thin equiconvex lens of glass of refractive index n = 3/2 and of focal length 0.3
m in air is sealed into an opening at one end of a tank filled with water (n = 4/3). On the opposite
side of the lens, a mirror is placed inside the tank on the tank wall perpendicular to the lens axis,
as shown in figure.

The separation between the lens and the mirror is 0.8 m. A small object is placed outside the tank
in front of the lens at a distance of 0.9 m from the lens along its axis. Find the position (relative
to the lens) of the image of the object formed by the system.
Solution : As one side of the lens is air and another is water. We should go as per the refraction
at the curved surface formula.Focal length in air
= 30 cm |R| = 30 cm
For refraction from the first curved surface

On putting n2 = 3/2 , n1 = 1 , u = 90 and R = 30 , we get

v = 270 cm.
This image will behave as an object for the second surface so
(4/3)/v (3/2)/270 = [(4/3) (3/2)]/30
On solving
v = +120 cm
This will behave as a virtual object for the plane mirror and will form a real image in front of the
mirror at a distance of 40 cm from the mirror. This image will behave as an object for surface
two of the lens.
(3/2)/v (4/3)/-40 = [3/2 4/3]/30
v = 54cm.
This will again behave as an object, for surface one of the lens
1/vf (3/2)/-54 = [13/2]/-30
vf = 90 cm
Final image will be 90 cm right of the lens.
Combinations of the lenses

For a system of lenses the net power of the system will be

Peq = P1 + P2 + P3 + P4 +
Provided all the thin lens all in close contact. There focal length of the net system can be written


f should be taken with proper sign.

When a convex and a concave lens of equal focal length are placed in contact, the equivalent
focal length is equal to infinite. Therefore the power becomes zero.
If the lenses are kept at a separation d, then the effective focal length f is given as

If the lens is converging put +ve for its focal length & -ve for the diverging lens.
P = P1 + P2 d P1P2
Note: The overall magnification M of the system is given as the product of individual
magnification m; M = m1 m2 m3 .
Silvering of lenses
If any surface of a lens is silvered, it will ultimately behave as a mirror and the power of
mirror thus formed will be equal to the sum of powers of the optical lenses and the mirrors
in between .
Combination of a Lens and Mirror


Consider a coaxial arrangement of a lens and a mirror. Let an object be placed in front of the
lens. The incident rays, from the object, first undergo refraction at lens and are then incident on
the mirror. To obtain the position of the image due to the combination,
we can proceed as following:
Using refraction formula, we can calculate where the image would have been formed, had there
been only the lens. We next take this image formed, as a real, (or virtual), object for the mirror.
Using the mirror formula, we can then locate the position of its final
image formed by the mirror. This final position, would be the position of the image due to the
combined effect of refraction by the lens and reflection by the mirror. This procedure is

illustrated through the following examples.

Example 1 : A convex lens, of focal length 20cm, has a point object placed on its principle axis
at distance of 40cm from it. A plane mirror is placed 30cm behind the convex lens. Locate the
position of image formed by this combination.

We first consider the effect of the lens. For the lens, we have
u = -40cm and f = +20cm
In all the ray diagrams,
(i) The arrows and lines, corresponding to various distances, have been put at in appropriate
(ii) There is absolutely no sense of proportion in showing the distances. In (for example, in the
above diagram, is 40cm distance has been shown (much) smaller than the 30cm distance.
Using the lens formula, we get
1/v -1/(-40) = 1/20
on solving , v = 40 cm
Had there been the lens only the image would have been formed at Q1 . The plane mirror M is at
a distance of 30cm from the lens L. We can, therefore, think of a Q1 as a virtual object, located at
a distance of 10cm, behind the plane mirror M. The plane mirror therefore forms a real image (of
this virtual object Q1) at Q, 10cm in front of it.
This is show in the Figure (i)
Example 2 : A convex lens is placed in contact with a plane mirror. An axial point object, at a
distance of 20cm from this combination, has its image coinciding with itself. What is the focal
length of the convex lens?

Solution :
Figure (ii) (a) shows a convex lens L in contact with a plane mirror M. P is the point object, kept

in front of this combination at a distance of 20cm, from it. Since the image of the object is
coinciding with the object itself, the rays from the object, after refraction
from the lens, should fall normally on the mirror M, so that they retrace their path and form an
image coinciding with the object itself. This will be so, if the incident rays from P form a parallel
beam perpendicular to M, after refraction from the lens. For clarity, M has been shown at a finite
distance from L, in figure (ii) (b). For lens L, since the rays from P, form a parallel beam after
refraction, P must be at the focus of the lens. Hence focal length of the lens is 20cm.
Example 3 : A convex lens, and a convex mirror, (of radius of curvature 20cm) are placed coaxially with the convex mirror placed at a distance of 30cm from the lens. For a point object at a
distance of 25cm from the lens, the final image; due to this combination, coincides with the
object itself. What is the focal length of the convex lens ?

The final image, formed by the combination, is coinciding with the object itself. This implies that
the rays, from the object, are retracing their path, after refraction from the
lens and reflection from the mirror. The (refracted) rays are, therefore, falling normally on the
mirror. It follows that the rays A B, and A B when produced, are meeting at the centre of
curvature, C fo the mirror. Hence O2C = 20cm, the radius of curvature of the mirror. From the
figure (iii), we then see that for the convex lens u = -25cm and v = +(30+20)cm = +50cm.
If f is the focal length of the lens, we have
1/50 -1/(-25) = 1/f
on solving we get
f = 16.67cm
Example 4 : A convex lens, of focal length 20cm, is placed co-axially with a convex mirror of
radius of curvature 20cm. The two are kept 15cm apart from each other. A point object is placed
60cm in front of the convex lens. Find the position of the image formed by this combination.
Solution: The ray diagram, for the image formed by the combination, is shown below in Figure.

For the convex lens, we have

u1 = -60cm and f = +20cm
Hence, using the lens formula, we get
1/v1 1/(-60) = 1/20
on solving v1 = 30 cm
Had there been only the lens L, the image of P would have been formed at Q1 which acts as a
virtual object for the convex mirror.
OQ1 = distance of this virtual object (Q1) from convex mirror = OQ1 OQ1 = (30-15)cm =
Hence for the convex mirror,
u2= +15cm and R =+20cm,
Using the mirror formula, we get
1/v2 +1/u2 = 2/R
on putting the values we get
v2 = 30 cm
Hence the final image (Q) formed is a virtual image formed at a distance of 30cm behind the
convex mirror.
Example 5 : A convex lens, of focal length 20cm, and a concave mirror, of focal length 10cm,
are placed co-axially 50cm apart from each other. An incident beam parallel to its principal axis,
is incident on the convex lens. Locate the position of the (final) image formed due to this
Solution : The incident beam, on lens L, is parallel to its principal axis. Hence the lens forms an
image Q1 at its focal point, i. e, at a distance O Q1 (=20cm) from the lens. This image, Q1, now
acts as a real object for the concave mirror. For the mirror, we then
have: u = -30cm, and f = -10cm,
Hence using mirror formula, we get
1/v + 1/(-30)= 1/(-10)
on solving we get,
v = -15cm
The lens mirror combination, therefore, forms a real image Q at a distance of 15cm from M.
The ray diagram is as shown in figure (v) below.

Simple magnifier

Can lenses be used as a visual aid ?

Lenses can be used to magnify smaller things, and to see distant objects clearly. Their uses as
optical instrument are illustrated below:
(1) Simple magnifier:
A simple magnifier consists of a converging lens. The lens is held such that object is adjusted
between lens and its focus so that a virtual, magnified image is formed. For distinct vision, the
image is adjusted to be at a distance of about. 25cm (least distance of distinct vision for human
eye =25cm)

Hence magnification is nearly m = ( 1 + 25/f)

Compound Microscope

Compound Microscope:
For higher magnification, a microscope can be used, which in its simplest form consists of two
converging lenses-one of very short focal length called objective and the other of a longer focal
length called eyepiece.

The object distance is so adjusted that the image formed by the objective is placed between the
eyepiece lens and its focal point, due to which a virtual magnified image is formed by the

Magnification = (magnification of objective) (magnification of eyepiece)

m = mo x me
[Where , mo = magnification by objective , me = magnification by the eye piece ]
me = 1 + D/fe
and mo = vo/-uo
Hence , m = (-vo/uo)(1 + D/fe )

A telescope consists of two convergent lenses (objective and eyepiece). In a telescope the
objective has a longer focal length and a larger aperture.

Light from a distant object enters the objective and a real image is formed at the focal point of
the objective. The eyepiece then further magnifies the image. In case of a telescope,
magnification is defined in terms of angles subtended by the image and the object.

(a)If the final image is formed at infinity i.e. for normal adjustment of the telescope,

(b) When the final image is formed at the least distance of distinct vision: