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First Reflection Images

Real object.     Use three dots to align object, images.

The situation consists of dried flower petals and three mirrors as shown in the left hand figure above.

As is customary among physicists, we reduce our complicated problem to an easier one. Three dots as depicted in the right graphic should provide enough information to determine the images.

The three dot objects are handled individually. We begin with the small solid dot in the center.


Real, diverging light rays.

Consider what happens to two light rays that begin at the object dot directed toward the bottom mirror.

Each light ray reflects at the mirror surface as shown at left. The light paths diverge as they move away from the mirror in the directions indicated by the arrows.


The virtual image of object A is located at the intersection of the virtual light rays.

Since the real light rays do not intersect, the image that we observe is not real, but virtual.

We locate the image by extending the outgoing light rays behind the mirror. Since these are not actual light rays, we will use dotted lines.

The observed image appears to emanate from the location where these virtual rays intersect. A dot below the mirror marks the location of the virtual image.



Ray diagrams are used to locate the bottom mirror images of the remaining two objects in the diagrams below.


Image of object B.     Image of object C.

With the three images from the bottom mirror located, we summarize our findings in the diagram on the right.

The objects are located in the top triangle, the images in the lower triangle.

Summary of images produced by mirror #1.

Images are produced by the upper mirrors on the right and left sides. Light ray drawings can be used to locate each of these virtual images.

Ray paths and image locations of the central object are depicted below for the two upper mirrors. The reader is encouraged to use this procedure to find the images for the left corner and upper objects.

Image of object A produced by mirror 2.    Object A image produced by mirror 3.

Results obtained thus far are gathered together to form the next sketch. This figure gives us the orientation of the first reflection kaleidoscope images. The original object is within the center triangle with the virtual images in the adjacent triangles.


Summary of first reflection images from all three mirrors.

Simplified images superimposed on kaleidoscope image.

Finally, we eliminate the orientation dots to reveal the beginning of our kaleidoscope image.

Object and first reflection images.

Continue to second reflection images.

©2004-2012 4Physics®




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