A curved mirror is a
mirror Grange, East Yorkshire, UK, from World War I. The mirror magnified the sound of approaching enemy Zeppelins for a microphone placed at the Focus (geometry), focal point. A mirror is an object that Reflection (physics), reflects an image. Lig ...

with a curved reflecting surface. The surface may be either ''convex'' (bulging outward) or ''concave'' (recessed inward). Most curved mirrors have surfaces that are shaped like part of a
sphere of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a Geometry, geometrical object in solid geometry, three-dimensional space that is the surface of a Ball (mathematics), ball (viz., analogous to the circular objects in two d ...
, but other shapes are sometimes used in optical devices. The most common non-spherical type are parabolic reflectors, found in optical devices such as reflecting telescopes that need to image distant objects, since spherical mirror systems, like spherical lenses, suffer from spherical aberration. Distorting mirrors are used for entertainment. They have convex and concave regions that produce deliberately distorted images. They also provide highly magnified or highly diminished (smaller) images when the object is placed at certain distances.

Convex mirrors

A convex mirror or diverging mirror is a curved mirror in which the reflective surface bulges towards the light source. Convex mirrors reflect light outwards, therefore they are not used to focus light. Such mirrors always form a virtual image, since the focal point (''F'') and the centre of curvature (''2F'') are both imaginary points "inside" the mirror, that cannot be reached. As a result, images formed by these mirrors cannot be projected on a screen, since the image is inside the mirror. The image is smaller than the object, but gets larger as the object approaches the mirror. A collimated (parallel) beam of light diverges (spreads out) after reflection from a convex mirror, since the normal to the surface differs at each spot on the mirror.

Uses of convex mirrors

The passenger-side mirror on a
is typically a convex mirror. In some countries, these are labeled with the safety warning " Objects in mirror are closer than they appear", to warn the driver of the convex mirror's distorting effects on distance perception. Convex mirrors are preferred in vehicles because they give an upright (not inverted), though diminished (smaller), image and because they provide a wider field of view as they are curved outwards. These mirrors are often found in the hallways of various
building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions, and have been adapted throughout history for a ...
s (commonly known as "hallway safety mirrors"), including
hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized medical and nursing staff and medical equipment. The best-known type of hospital is the general hospital, which typically has an emergency department to treat ...

s, hotels,
school A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students (or "pupils") under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is someti ...

s, stores, and apartment buildings. They are usually mounted on a wall or ceiling where hallways intersect each other, or where they make sharp turns. They are useful for people to look at any obstruction they will face on the next hallway or after the next turn. They are also used on roads, driveways, and alleys to provide safety for motorists where there is a lack of visibility, especially at curves and turns. Convex mirrors are used in some automated teller machines as a simple and handy security feature, allowing the users to see what is happening behind them. Similar devices are sold to be attached to ordinary computer monitors. Convex mirrors make everything seem smaller but cover a larger area of surveillance. Round convex mirrors called ''Oeil de Sorcière'' (French for "sorcerer's eye") were a popular luxury item from the 15th century onwards, shown in many depictions of interiors from that time. With 15th century technology, it was easier to make a regular curved mirror (from blown glass) than a perfectly flat one. They were also known as "bankers' eyes" due to the fact that their wide field of vision was useful for security. Famous examples in art include the ''Arnolfini Portrait'' by Jan van Eyck and the left wing of the ''Werl Altarpiece'' by Robert Campin.

Convex mirror image

The image on a convex mirror is always ''virtual'' (ray (optics), rays haven't actually passed through the image; their extensions do, like in a regular mirror), ''diminished'' (smaller), and ''upright'' (not inverted). As the object gets closer to the mirror, the image gets larger, until reaching approximately the size of the object, when it touches the mirror. As the object moves away, the image diminishes in size and gets gradually closer to the focus, until it is reduced to a point in the focus when the object is at an infinite distance. These features make convex mirrors very useful: since everything appears smaller in the mirror, they cover a wider Angle of view, field of view than a normal mirror, plane mirror, so useful for looking at cars behind a driver's car on a road, watching a wider area for surveillance, etc.

Concave mirrors

A concave mirror, or converging mirror, has a reflecting surface that is recessed inward (away from the incident light). Concave mirrors reflect light inward to one focal point. They are used to focus light. Unlike convex mirrors, concave mirrors show different image types depending on the distance between the object and the mirror. These mirrors are called "converging mirrors" because they tend to collect light that falls on them, refocusing parallel incoming ray (optics), rays toward a focus. This is because the light is reflected at different angles at different spots on the mirror as the normal to the mirror surface differs at each spot.

Uses of concave mirrors

Concave mirrors are used in reflecting telescopes. They are also used to provide a magnified image of the face for applying make-up or shaving. In Illumination (lighting), illumination applications, concave mirrors are used to gather light from a small source and direct it outward in a beam as in Flashlight, torches, headlamps and Spotlight (theatre lighting), spotlights, or to collect light from a large area and focus it into a small spot, as in concentrated solar power. Concave mirrors are used to form optical cavity, optical cavities, which are important in laser construction. Some dental mirrors use a concave surface to provide a magnified image. The Optical landing system#Mirror landing aid, mirror landing aid system of modern aircraft carriers also uses a concave mirror.

Concave mirror image

Mirror shape

Most curved mirrors have a spherical profile. These are the simplest to make, and it is the best shape for general-purpose use. Spherical mirrors, however, suffer from spherical aberration—parallel rays reflected from such mirrors do not focus to a single point. For parallel rays, such as those coming from a very distant object, a parabolic reflector can do a better job. Such a mirror can focus incoming parallel rays to a much smaller spot than a spherical mirror can. A toroidal reflector is a form of parabolic reflector which has a different focal distance depending on the angle of the mirror.


Mirror equation, magnification, and focal length

The Gaussian optics, Gaussian mirror equation, also known as the mirror and lens equation, relates the object distance d_\mathrm and image distance d_\mathrm to the focal length f: :\frac+ \frac = \frac. The sign convention used here is that the focal length is positive for concave mirrors and negative for convex ones, and d_\mathrm and d_\mathrm are positive when the object and image are in front of the mirror, respectively. (They are positive when the object or image is real.) For convex mirrors, if one moves the 1/d_\mathrm term to the right side of the equation to solve for 1/d_\mathrm, then the result is always a negative number, meaning that the image distance is negative—the image is virtual, located "behind" the mirror. This is consistent with the behavior described #Convex mirrors, above. For concave mirrors, whether the image is virtual or real depends on how large the object distance is compared to the focal length. If the 1/f term is larger than the 1/d_\mathrm term, then 1/d_\mathrm is positive and the image is real. Otherwise, the term is negative and the image is virtual. Again, this validates the behavior described #Concave mirrors, above. The magnification of a mirror is defined as the height of the image divided by the height of the object: :m \equiv \frac = - \frac. By convention, if the resulting magnification is positive, the image is upright. If the magnification is negative, the image is inverted (upside down).

Ray tracing

The image location and size can also be found by graphical ray tracing, as illustrated in the figures above. A ray drawn from the top of the object to the mirror surface vertex (where the optical axis meets the mirror) will form an angle with the optical axis. The reflected ray has the same angle to the axis, but on the opposite side (See Specular reflection). A second ray can be drawn from the top of the object, Parallel (geometry), parallel to the optical axis. This ray is reflected by the mirror and passes through its focal point. The point at which these two rays meet is the image point corresponding to the top of the object. Its distance from the optical axis defines the height of the image, and its location along the axis is the image location. The mirror equation and magnification equation can be derived geometrically by considering these two rays. A ray that goes from the top of the object through the focal point can be considered instead. Such a ray reflects parallel to the optical axis and also passes through the image point corresponding to the top of the object.

Ray transfer matrix of spherical mirrors

The mathematical treatment is done under the paraxial approximation, meaning that under the first approximation a spherical mirror is a parabolic reflector. The Ray transfer matrix analysis, ray matrix of a concave spherical mirror is shown here. The C element of the matrix is -\frac, where f is the focal point of the optical device. Boxes 1 and 3 feature summing the angles of a triangle and comparing to Pi, π radians (or 180°). Box 2 shows the Maclaurin series of \arccos\left(-\frac\right) up to order 1. The derivations of the ray matrices of a convex spherical mirror and a thin lens are very similar.

See also

* Alhazen's problem (reflection from a spherical mirror) * Anamorphosis * Concentrated solar power - a method of solar power generation using curved mirrors or arrays of mirrors * List of telescope parts and construction



External links

Java applets to explore ray tracing for curved mirrors

Molecular Expressions Optical Microscopy Primer
Spherical mirrors
online physics lab
"Grinding the World's Largest Mirror"
''Popular Science'', December 1935 Mirrors