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Virtual Images

Noah Bittermann
March 2018

1 Introduction
This brief note is meant to supplement the material in the introductory sections
of experiments 2-6 and 2-7 in your lab manual. It’s pretty much what I would
have talked about in the beginning of class before releasing you to work on the
experiment. I will reference those two sections that I mentioned before, so be
sure you read them before reading this. In particular, be sure that you know
how to draw ray diagrams for converging lenses. If you do not understand this
after reading through the manual, ask Luke and he will explain it. P.S. I made
the figures in MS Paint, sorry they’re shitty.

2 Conventions
The figure below displays the sign conventions which are used in this course. In
this diagram, f is the focal length of the lens, S is the distance from the object
to the lens, and S 0 is the distance from the lens to the image it creates.

3 Ray Diagrams for Diverging Lenses and Vir-


tual Images.
The manual doesn’t do a great job explaining how to draw ray diagrams for
diverging lenses. In fact, it doesn’t do any job at all, which is surprising because
it’s important for this experiment. I’ll try and walk you through how to do this
below. Let’s start with a blank slate on which to draw our light rays:

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Our goal is to figure out S 0 and the orientation of the imagine created by
this lens. Of course, if we wanted to we could just use the lens equation to
solve for this variable. However, we want to develop some intuition for what
is happening here. We should imagine our object (the arrow) as a little light
source which emits rays of light in all directions. These rays of light will strike
the lens and be redirected on the other side à la refraction. The redirected rays
will converge at some point, where an image will be formed (kind of. This is
what happens with a converging lens. There are subtleties with a diverging lens
which I will elaborate on shortly). I could put a screen where the light rays
intersect and thus project an image of the object onto that screen (again, kind
of. The works for real images but not virtual images, the distinction between
which will be explained shortly). Like in the case of the converging lens, there is
a master set of rules which one can use to draw a ray diagram. These rules are
derived by applying Snell’s law at both of the air-glass interfaces. Rather than
derive them, which is painful, I’ll just state them, filling in our diagram as we go:

1) Rays from the object traveling towards the focal point on the opposite side
of the lens are deflected so that they leave the lens parallel to the optical axis
(if the phrase ”optical axis” is unfamiliar to you, it’s that line cutting the lens
in half). Here the light ray is represented by the solid blue arrow. The dashed
line is meant to demonstrate that if the lens were not present, the ray would hit
the opposite focal point.

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2) Rays from the object which are initially parallel to the optical axis strike the
lens and are deflected so that one could continue their trajectory backwards and
intersect the focal point on the near side of the lens.

And that’s it. There are no more rules (no more useful rules, anyway).
You may notice, however, that we don’t get what I promised: the rays do not
intersect on the opposite side of the lens, so there is apparently no image formed.
Moreover, I cannot put a screen at the intersection point of the rays and project
an image onto that screen because there is in fact, no intersection point. But,
an image does actually exist. Here the aforementioned subtly comes into play.
To see what happens, let’s strip away the lens and the object, and just look at
the result that our lens system yields. I’ve also added in an observer whose eye
collects both of the incoming rays.

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Now let’s add in a pretend source for these phantom rays. Light rays diverge
from a point. We can find that point if we trace these light rays backwards and
located where they intersect.

Let’s stop here and think about how we came to this place. We started
with an object, which we thought of as little bulb emitting light rays, and a
diverging lens. The rays hit the lens, and were refracted in such a way that
they did not intersect on the other side, but rather diverged. But look above!
Those diverging rays are doing exactly the same thing that rays emanating from
a point source would do! An observer can’t tell the difference. All Mike sees
are the rays that strike his eye, and those rays act in the exact same way that
rays from our artificial point source would act. Therefore, to Mike it looks like
that artificial point source is actually present and actually created those rays,
even though in reality they were formed from a complicated interaction between
an object and a diverging lens. This is the sense in which an image is formed
by a diverging lens. The diverging lens yields rays which could be emanating
from a pretend source, and this pretend source is the image. It is somewhat
illusory–you cannot project this image onto a screen, but you can still see it.
Moreover, a second lens can collect this light, and in doing so treats the pretend
source as though it were a real object. Because the whole thing feels a little
artificial, such an image is called a virtual image.

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Now let’s go back and appreciate our ray diagram in it’s full glory, adding
those lines whose intersection gave us the location of our imaginary source.

To reduce some of the clutter, I removed the dashed line which represented
the continuation of the ray drawn from rule (1) to the opposite focal point. The
main thing which you should note about this diagram is that the image falls on
the left hand side of the lens, which means that S 0 is negative. This is typical
for virtual images–the image will always be formed on the same side of the lens
as the object, and so the distance to the image will always be negative. You
should also note that the image is upright, and also smaller than the original
object.

4 Tips for the Today’s Lab


Here I would like to address some common issues that come up when students
try and do this lab. There is no particular overarching theme to the questions
that I’m addressing, just that they’re common, so this section might come across
as a bit incoherent.

1) For a telescope, the object that you are viewing is infinitely far away. That
means in the lens equation, S = ∞, so 1/f = 1/S 0 , or more simply, S 0 = f , so
the image is projected at the focal point of the lens. Also keep in mind that the
optical track you are given may not be large enough to hold both the lenses,
and the grid paper which is supposed to be infinitely far away. It is helpful to
hang the grid paper on a reasonably distanced wall and aim your telescope at it.
Note that for the microscope, the object that you are observing is not infinitely
far away.

2) The equations for the magnification for the microscope and the telescope
are different. Read through the introductory sections for this experiment in the

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lab manual and you will see the difference. Remember not to mix them up.

3) You do not need to be very precise when you measure the magnification
of your telescope and microscope. A reasonable estimate is fine.

4) In this tip, starred equations will refer to those in the manual. Un-starred
equations will refer to those in this note. To derive equation (8*) in the manual,
you will need to used two copies of the thin lens equations. In one instance, it
will read
1 1 1
= + (1)
f So1 Si1
and in the other instance it will read
1 1 1
= + . (2)
f So2 Si2
To derive Equation (8*), I would recommend starting with equation (2), and
solving for So2 . Then, you should solve equation (7*) in the manual for Si2 , and
substitute this into your previous result. Then, solve equation (1) for Si1 , and
plug this into your previous result. Then, solve the resulting equation for So2 .
Just start doing it and you’ll see how it works.

5) Magnifications that are larger than 1 mean that the image is larger than
the object. If the magnification is smaller than 1, that means the image is
smaller than the object. Also, if the magnification is negative, that means the
the orientation of the object is flipped.

That’s all I can really think of, if there are any questions, please ask Luke.
Best of luck!

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