The interference of waves In physics, interference is
The interference of waves In physics, interference is the addition (superposition) of two or more waves that results in a new wave pattern. The displacements of the waves add algebraically. Consider two waves that are in phase, sharing the same frequency and with amplitudes A1 and A2. Their troughs and peaks line up and the resultant wave will have amplitude A = A1 + A2. This is known as constructive interference. If the two waves are radians, or 180, out of phase, then one wave's
crests will coincide with another wave's troughs and so will tend to cancel out. The resultant amplitude is A = |A1 A2|. If A1 = A2, the resultant amplitude will be zero. This is known as destructive interference. Interference (superposition) of simple one-dimentional waves some important effects: Standing waves when two waves of the same frequency travel in opposite direction (e.g., when
a wave hits a wall, a back-reflected wave is created, and the incident and the back-reflected wave interfere. Beats when two waves of slightly different frequencies interfere. A link to a Web page with animations of standing waves and beats. Interference filters a practical demonstration only
Christian Huygens (XVII century) Based on his observations of waves on water, he formulated a very important law, known as the Huygens Principle. Huygens Principle: Any wavefront of a traveling wave can be replaced, as far as effects further along the propagation direction are concerned, by a large number of point sources
located uniformly all over the wavefront, radiating in phase. Thomas Youngs 1805 experiment: according to the Huygens Principle, a narrow slit becomes a point-like source af a circular wave. Young demonstrated
that light waves radiating from two narrow slits interfere, giving rise to a pattern of alternating bright and dark stripes
on a screen. Original figure from Youngs 1805 report. Grating (or diffraction grating). A plate with a large number of equally spaced narrow slits.
Grating: each of the many slits is the source of an elementary Huygens wave: Plot explaining how the zero-order wave is produced: The incident plane wave Here, the graph shows how the wave crests emerging from one slit interfere with the crests from the successive slits, phase-shifted by one full wavelength thus
forming the deflected wave of the first order. Of course, there is an analogous process forming a wave deflected to the right but those wavefronts
are not shown (the plot would become too messy, Im afraid). The first-order wave a blown-up plot: d is the spacing between
the gratings slits. It is usually referred to as the grating constant. d The angle its propagation direction
makes with the propagation direction of the incident beam can be readily obtained from basic trigonometry: BC sin AB d
A graph explaining how the second-order deflected wave is created (a more appropriate term than deflected would be diffracted, but deflection is more intuitive). Now the wave crest emerging from one slit interferes with with the crest
from the next slit that is phaseshifted by two wavelengths. Diffraction by a single slit: there is a central maximum, and a numBer of weaker maxima (called side-bands) on both sides. The
top plot explains where the minima between the side maxima are located (m in the formulae can take the value of 1, 2, 3). Lower picture single slit diffraction of red light from a laser pointer (an experiment
one can easily make at home a good slit can be made, e.g., from two disposable blades for standard box cutters). Light diffraction on a single circular aperture (aperture is an elegant word meaning hole, or opening).
Link to a good PPT presentation The objective lens of a telescope can be thought of as a circular opening. Therefore, images of point objects (and distant stars are, in practice, nearly
point objects) are not ideal points, but discs of the size of the central maximum in the diffraction pattern from such opening (continued in the next slide). By astronomers, such diffraction-broadened images are called Airy discs.
The Airy discs limit the ability of the telescope to resolve stars that are too close to each other in the sky. Lets show this by considering a simple example. The opening of the largest OSU telescope has a 12 inch diameter (0.30 m). We can take the average wavelength in starlight as 500 nm. From the formula in the preceding slide we can calculate the angular size of the Airy disc in this telescope: AD 1.22 500 nm 1.22 500 10 -9 m
2.03 10 6 radians 0.42 sec. of arc 0.3 m 0.3 m This result means that any two objects in the skies, the angular distance between which is smaller than 0.4 second of arc, will merge in this telescope into a single spot as illustrated by the rightmost blue shape in the preceding slide. This is a sufficient resolving power to see the Mizar A
and Mizar B stars (we talked about them some tiime ago) as two separate objects, because the angular distance between them is 14 sec. of arc but not two other stars in the five-star Mizar cluster. The effect of Airy disc also explains why astronomers want telescopes with objective diameters as large as possible!
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