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The three types of images formed by mirrors (cases 1, 2, and 3) are exactly analogous to those formed by lenses, as summarized in the table at the end of "Image Formation by Lenses". It is easiest to concentrate on only three types of images—then remember that concave mirrors act like convex lenses, whereas convex mirrors act like concave lenses.

Take-home experiment: concave mirrors close to home

Find a flashlight and identify the curved mirror used in it. Find another flashlight and shine the first flashlight onto the second one, which is turned off. Estimate the focal length of the mirror. You might try shining a flashlight on the curved mirror behind the headlight of a car, keeping the headlight switched off, and determine its focal length.

Problem-solving strategy for mirrors

Step 1. Examine the situation to determine that image formation by a mirror is involved.

Step 2. Refer to the "Problem-Solving Strategies for Lenses". The same strategies are valid for mirrors as for lenses with one qualification—use the ray tracing rules for mirrors listed earlier in this section.

Section summary

  • The characteristics of an image formed by a flat mirror are: (a) The image and object are the same distance from the mirror, (b) The image is a virtual image, and (c) The image is situated behind the mirror.
  • Image length is half the radius of curvature.
    f = R 2 size 12{f= { {R} over {2} } } {}
  • A convex mirror is a diverging mirror and forms only one type of image, namely a virtual image.

Conceptual questions

What are the differences between real and virtual images? How can you tell (by looking) whether an image formed by a single lens or mirror is real or virtual?

Can you see a virtual image? Can you photograph one? Can one be projected onto a screen with additional lenses or mirrors? Explain your responses.

Is it necessary to project a real image onto a screen for it to exist?

At what distance is an image always located—at d o size 12{d rSub { size 8{o} } } {} , d i size 12{d rSub { size 8{i} } } {} , or f size 12{f} {} ?

Under what circumstances will an image be located at the focal point of a lens or mirror?

What is meant by a negative magnification? What is meant by a magnification that is less than 1 in magnitude?

Can a case 1 image be larger than the object even though its magnification is always negative? Explain.

[link] shows a light bulb between two mirrors. One mirror produces a beam of light with parallel rays; the other keeps light from escaping without being put into the beam. Where is the filament of the light in relation to the focal point or radius of curvature of each mirror?

Two concave mirrors of different sizes are placed facing one another. A filament bulb is placed at the focus of the larger mirror. The rays after reflection from the larger mirror travel parallel to one another. The rays falling on the smaller mirror retrace their paths.
The two mirrors trap most of the bulb’s light and form a directional beam as in a headlight.

Devise an arrangement of mirrors allowing you to see the back of your head. What is the minimum number of mirrors needed for this task?

If you wish to see your entire body in a flat mirror (from head to toe), how tall should the mirror be? Does its size depend upon your distance away from the mirror? Provide a sketch.

It can be argued that a flat mirror has an infinite focal length. If so, where does it form an image? That is, how are d i size 12{d rSub { size 8{i} } } {} and d o size 12{d rSub { size 8{o} } } {} related?

Why are diverging mirrors often used for rear-view mirrors in vehicles? What is the main disadvantage of using such a mirror compared with a flat one?

Problems&Exercises

What is the focal length of a makeup mirror that has a power of 1.50 D?

+0.667 m

Some telephoto cameras use a mirror rather than a lens. What radius of curvature mirror is needed to replace a 800 mm focal length telephoto lens?

(a) Calculate the focal length of the mirror formed by the shiny back of a spoon that has a 3.00 cm radius of curvature. (b) What is its power in diopters?

(a) –1.5 × 10 –2 m

(b) –66.7 D

Find the magnification of the heater element in [link] . Note that its large magnitude helps spread out the reflected energy.

What is the focal length of a makeup mirror that produces a magnification of 1.50 when a person’s face is 12.0 cm away?

+0.360 m (concave)

A shopper standing 3.00 m from a convex security mirror sees his image with a magnification of 0.250. (a) Where is his image? (b) What is the focal length of the mirror? (c) What is its radius of curvature?

An object 1.50 cm high is held 3.00 cm from a person’s cornea, and its reflected image is measured to be 0.167 cm high. (a) What is the magnification? (b) Where is the image? (c) Find the radius of curvature of the convex mirror formed by the cornea. (Note that this technique is used by optometrists to measure the curvature of the cornea for contact lens fitting. The instrument used is called a keratometer, or curve measurer.)

(a) +0.111

(b) -0.334 cm (behind “mirror”)

(c) 0.752cm

Ray tracing for a flat mirror shows that the image is located a distance behind the mirror equal to the distance of the object from the mirror. This is stated d i = –d o size 12{d rSub { size 8{o} } } {} , since this is a negative image distance (it is a virtual image). (a) What is the focal length of a flat mirror? (b) What is its power?

Show that for a flat mirror h i = h o , knowing that the image is a distance behind the mirror equal in magnitude to the distance of the object from the mirror.

m = h i h o = d i d o = d o d o = d o d o = 1 h i = h o

Use the law of reflection to prove that the focal length of a mirror is half its radius of curvature. That is, prove that f = R / 2 size 12{f=R/2} {} . Note this is true for a spherical mirror only if its diameter is small compared with its radius of curvature.

Referring to the electric room heater considered in the first example in this section, calculate the intensity of IR radiation in W/m 2 size 12{"W/m" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} projected by the concave mirror on a person 3.00 m away. Assume that the heating element radiates 1500 W and has an area of 100 cm 2 size 12{"100"" cm" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , and that half of the radiated power is reflected and focused by the mirror.

6.82 k W/m 2 size 12{6 "." "82"" kW/m" rSup { size 8{2} } } {}

Consider a 250-W heat lamp fixed to the ceiling in a bathroom. If the filament in one light burns out then the remaining three still work. Construct a problem in which you determine the resistance of each filament in order to obtain a certain intensity projected on the bathroom floor. The ceiling is 3.0 m high. The problem will need to involve concave mirrors behind the filaments. Your instructor may wish to guide you on the level of complexity to consider in the electrical components.

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of physics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 25, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11738/1.5
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