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what is the resolving power with regard to a microscope

what is the resolving power with regard to a microscope

Best Answer: Resolving power is the ability of the components of an imaging device to measure the angular separation of the points in an object. The term resolution or minimum resolvable distance is the minimum distance between distinguishable objects in an image, although the term is loosely used by many users of microscopes and telescopes to describe resolving power. In scientific analysis the term “resolution” is generally used to describe the precision with which any instrument measures and records (in an image or spectrum) any variable in the specimen or sample under study.

the resolution (resolving power) of a microscope means its ability to ,Both a and b, although b is the ultimate limiting factor , “Numerical aperture determines the resolving power of an objective, but the total resolution of the entire microscope optical train is also dependent upon the numerical aperture of the substage condenser. The higher the numerical aperture of the total system, the better the resolution…………Correct alignment of the microscope optical system is also of paramount importance to ensure maximum resolution. The substage condenser must be matched to the objective with respect to numerical aperture and adjustment of the aperture iris diaphragm for accurate light cone formation” and specimen illumination. The wavelength spectrum of light used to image a specimen is also a determining factor in the degree of resolution afforded by the microscope. Shorter wavelengths are capable of resolving details to a greater degree than are the longer wavelengths” .

A microscope is an optical device used in viewing and studying objects that are not visible to the naked eye. The basic parts of a simple type of microscope, called a compound microscope, include the eyepiece, ocular lens, objective lens, revolving nosepiece, stage, condenser, condenser adjustment control, light source, light switch control and adjustment knobs.One of the fundamental features of a microscope is its ability to augment images. Magnification is provided by a two-lens optical system consisting of the ocular and objective lenses. The ocular lens is located on the eyepiece while the objective lens is attached to a rotating nosepiece. Typically, the nosepiece contains four objective lenses, with each lens corresponding to different levels of magnification. The combined magnification of the ocular and objective lenses is the total linear magnification of a microscope. A compound microscope is capable of enlarging an image from 40 to 20,000 times its original size.Another basic feature of a microscope is its resolving power, otherwise known as the resolution. The two factors that affect the resolution are the wavelength of the light source and the numerical aperture. Electron microscopes provide better resolution and show more detail compared to light microscopes.

Resolving power, as the word implies means the ability to distinguish between two distinct light sources as two distinct light sources. Under normal condition, the resolution limit is reached by diffraction of light a.k.a. the bending of light around corner.

So, basically, (a) has resolved the light sources pretty well, while (c) has unable to even register the two light sources as distinct. (b) on the other hand has intermediate resolving power and will produce image which will be ‘blur’.

A real life example looks something like this,

The atmospheric disturbances experienced by land based telescopes limit the resolving power of such telescope, while Hubble is limited by the theoretical limit of resolution limited by the wavelength of incident light.

Theoretical limit to resolution

is expressed by Rayleigh formula,

For everything remaining same, the wavelength of light impacts resolving power linearly i.e. larger the wavelength of light, higher the resolving power will be. This is the reason, why you use blue light (450–495 nm) for higher resolution in a light microscope instead of white light (570–590 nm). If you want even higher resolving power, you can go for electron microscope which used electron (2.5 pm at 100keV) to ‘view’ the objects.


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