Caustic Surface

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Related to Caustic Surface: Caustic curve
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Caustic Surface


a surface that is an envelope of a system of light rays emitted by a luminous point and passing through an optical system. A caustic surface can also be defined as a surface at each of whose points there is an intersection of two rays diverging at an infinitesimal angle from a luminous point and converging after refraction at the boundaries of the system’s optical mediums. The concentration of light energy takes place on a caustic surface and can be seen well in a hazy medium.

Figure 1. Form of caustic surface for an optical system that has spherical aberration. (AB) light wave front after passing through optical system, (L) light rays, (K) caustic, (PQ) line segment, along which image of point light source is distended in presence of spherical aberration (in a nonaberrational system a point source is represented by a point).

The aberrations of optical systems may be classified on the basisof the symmetry properties of caustic surfaces. The axial symme-try of a caustic surface (see Figure 1) corresponds to sphericalaberration, and symmetry with respect to the meridional plane(for example, the plane of the figure) corresponds to the coma.In nonaberrational optical systems the caustic surface becomesa point—the image of a point source.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.