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aberration, in optics, condition that causes a blurring and loss of clearness in the images produced by lenses or mirrors. Of the many types of aberration, the two most significant to the lens maker are spherical and chromatic. Spherical aberration is caused by the failure of a lens or mirror of spherical section to bring parallel rays of light to a single focus. The effect results from the operation of the laws of optics, not from defects in construction. Spherical aberration can be prevented by using a parabolic rather than a spherical section, but this involves much greater complexity and expense in lens or mirror construction. Chromatic aberration results in the blurred coloring of the edge of an image when white light is sent through a lens. This is caused by the fact that some colors of light are bent, or refracted, more than others after passing through a lens. For example, violet light is bent more than red and thus is brought to a focus nearer the lens than red. No single lens can ever be free of chromatic aberration, but by combining lenses of different types, the effects of the component lenses can be made to cancel one another. Such an arrangement is called an achromatic lens. See reflection; refraction.
A departure of an optical image-forming system from ideal behavior. Ideally, such a system will produce a unique image point corresponding to each object point. In addition, every straight line in the object space will have as its corresponding image a unique straight line. A similar one-to-one correspondence will exist between planes in the two spaces. This type of mapping of object space into image space is called a collinear transformation. When the conditions for a collinear transformation are not met, the departures from that ideal behavior are termed aberrations. They are classified into two general types, monochromatic aberrations and chromatic aberrations. The monochromatic aberrations apply to a single color, or wavelength, of light. The chromatic aberrations are simply the chromatic variation, or variation with wavelength, of the monochromatic aberrations. See Chromatic aberration, Geometrical optics, Optical image
The monochromatic aberrations can be described in several ways. Wave aberrations are departures of the geometrical wavefront from a reference sphere with its vertex at the center of the exit pupil and its center of curvature located at the ideal image point. The wave aberration is measured along the ray and is a function of the field height and the pupil coordinates of the reference sphere (see illustration).
Transverse ray aberrations are measured by the transverse displacement from the ideal image point to the ray intersection with the ideal image plane. The chief monochromatic aberrations are spherical (aperture) aberrations, coma, astigmatism, curvature of field, and distortion.
Each surface in an optical system introduces aberrations as the light beam passes through the system. The aberrations of the entire system consist of the sum of the surface contributions, some of which may be positive and others negative. The challenge of optical design is to balance these contributions so that the total aberrations of the system are tolerably small. In a well-corrected system the individual surface contributions are many times larger than the tolerance value, so that the balance is rather delicate, and the optical system must be made with a high degree of precision. See Lens (optics), Optical surfaces
ii. Geometrical inaccuracy(ies) introduced by optical, IR (infrared), or similar electromagnetic systems in which radiation is processed by mirrors. In optics, a specific deviation from perfect imagery (e.g., spherical aberration, coma, astigmatism, curvature of field, or distortion).
iii. The displacement of the apparent directions of the stars resulting from the motion of the observer. Also called an atmospheric aberration.