Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


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Published in Annals of Science 64:1 (January 2007), pp. 1–18; doi 10.1080/00033790601035360 Copyright © 2007 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


The twofold objective of this study is (1) to identify and give a brief review of the historical development of the various designs of early (pre-1850) telescope eyepieces, and (2) to determine by measurements and calculations the axial and lateral chromatic aberrations of a number of extant eyepieces from that period in order to provide basic data on which to judge the relative quality of different eyepiece forms. Eight distinct types of eyepieces containing one to five lens elements are discussed and illustrated. The second objective was addressed by measuring the focal lengths of the individual lens elements and the lens spacings in each eyepiece. The data were processed by a ray-tracing program that yields the chromatic aberration (CA) and focal length of each of the eyepieces. Twenty-one telescopes from that period were studied in this way. Similar calculations were also made using data available in the literature on several additional historic telescopes. The conclusions drawn from the data are: (1) Telescopes with Galilean eyepieces have a smaller CA than those with Keplerian or Huygens eyepieces. (2) The two- lens Keplerian terrestrial eyepieces are demonstrated to have larger axial and lateral CA than any of the other eyepiece types. (3) Calculations from examples of telescopes by Divini and Campani for which data were available indicate that while the axial CAs of the two were the same, Campani’s instrument had a much smaller lateral CA. (4) Five element eyepieces were found to be better corrected for CA than the early four-lens systems that replaced them. (5) This study tends to confirm the speculation that the reason makers of early achromatic telescopes overcorrected the objective lenses was to compensate for the CA of the eyepieces.

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