Reflection Off A Convex (diverging) Mirror
This simulation shows the results of light striking a convex mirror
which is also known as a diverging mirror. Notice that the light comes in parallel
to principal axis of the mirror (not shown). As a result, the light gets reflected as
though it came from the focal point of the mirror. The focal point is, by
definition, where the light rays seem to cross after coming in parallel to the principal
axis. Since they only "seem" to cross, it often called a virtual focus
instead of a focal point. So for this mirror the focal point is where the five light "particles"
seem to have overlapped behind the mirror. See the diagram below for a better drawing of
where the focal point and principal axis are.
This "imaginary" overlap would occur whether light is considered to be a particle or a wave.
The following diagram shows the rules for the known behavior of light rays striking a Convex (diverging) mirror:
The following rules apply to light rays striking a convex (diverging) mirror:
- A) Any ray coming in parallel to the principal axis gets reflected as though it came through the focal point (f).
- B) Any ray seeming to pass through the focal point (f) gets reflected parallel to the principal axis.
- C) Any ray striking the point where the principal axis touches the mirror will be reflected at an equal angle on the opposite side of the principal axis.
Diverging mirrors are used as security mirrors in stores because they allow you to
see a wide angle when you look into one. This is a result of the image being made
smaller, which allows more "space" in the mirror for a wider view. They
are often used on side view mirrors for cars because of their wide angle view. The
problem is that we tend to associate image size with how close an object is. When
you look into your side view mirror and see the small image of a car, you might assume it
is a long way away, when in fact it might be right next to you. For this reason they
carry the warning "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."
(Don't go by the Meatloaf song, it is backwards!)
Thanks to Garry Larson's Far Side for the correct and humorous physics.