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A curved mirror is a mirror 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, 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 diagram showing the focus, focal length, centre of curvature, principal axis, etc.

A convex mirror or diverging mirror is a curved mirror in which the reflective surface bulges towards the light source.[1] 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

Convex mirror lets motorists see around a corner.
[1] 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

Convex mirror lets motorists see around a corner.
Detail of the convex mirror in the Arnolfini Portrait

The passenger-side mirror on a car 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 buildings (commonly known as "hallway safety mirrors"), including hospitals, hotels, schools, 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.

The passenger-side mirror on a car 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 buildings (commonly known as "hallway safety mirrors"), including hospitals, hotels, schools, 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.[2]

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.[3] 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 hallways of various buildings (commonly known as "hallway safety mirrors"), including hospitals, hotels, schools, 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

The image on a convex mirror is always virtual (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 field of view than a normal plane mirror, so useful for looking at cars behind a driver's car on a road, watching a wider area for surveillance, etc.

Effect on image of object's position relative to mirror focal point (convex)
Object's position (S),
focal point (F)
Image Diagram
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.[5] They are also used to provide a magnified image of the face for applying make-up or shaving.[6] In illumination applications, concave mirrors are used to gather light from a small source and direct it outward in a beam as in torches, headlamps and 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 cavities, which are important in laser construction. Some dental mirrors use a concave surface to provide a magnified image. The mirror landing aid system of modern aircraft carriers also uses a concave mirror.

Concave mirror image

Effect on image of object's position relative to mirror focal point (concave)
Object's position (S),
focal point (F)
Image Diagram