Resolution of distant light sources

In summary, the conversation discusses the minimum angular separation that a human eye can resolve when viewing two objects, considering only diffraction effects. The problem involves determining the distance between two car headlights that are 2.1 m apart and the minimum angular separation between two stars. The equations used are θ=(1.22*λ)/D and θ=2sin-1(0.5d/l), and the answer is found to be 15648 m. The conversation also mentions checking the reasonableness of the answer and the possibility of making algebraic or calculator errors.
  • #1
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Homework Statement



How far away can a human eye distinguish two car headlights 2.1 m apart? Consider only diffraction effects and assume an eye pupil diameter of 5.0 mm and a wavelength of 550 nm. What is the minimum angular separation an eye could resolve when viewing two stars, considering only diffraction effects?

Homework Equations



θ=(1.22*λ)/D where D=diameter

The Attempt at a Solution



If θ=2sin-1(0.5d/l) where d=distance between objects and l=length/distance to objects, then θ=(1.22*λ)/D with λ550e-9 m and D=0.005 m and l=2.1 m yields l=8.9658e5 m. This is incorrect though and I'm not sure where I went wrong. Any help is appreciated, thanks.
 
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  • #2
grouper said:

Homework Statement



How far away can a human eye distinguish two car headlights 2.1 m apart? Consider only diffraction effects and assume an eye pupil diameter of 5.0 mm and a wavelength of 550 nm. What is the minimum angular separation an eye could resolve when viewing two stars, considering only diffraction effects?

Homework Equations



θ=(1.22*λ)/D where D=diameter

The Attempt at a Solution



If θ=2sin-1(0.5d/l) where d=distance between objects and l=length/distance to objects, then θ=(1.22*λ)/D with λ550e-9 m and D=0.005 m and l=2.1 m yields l=8.9658e5 m.

That's almost 900 km. The first thing you should do when solving physics problems is to ask yourself whether the answer you obtained makes any sense. Is it reasonable?

grouper said:
This is incorrect though and I'm not sure where I went wrong. Any help is appreciated, thanks.

You must have made some sort of algebraic error somewhere. We can't really help you track it down unless if you show us the steps in your solution.
 
  • #3
That's almost 900 km. The first thing you should do when solving physics problems is to ask yourself whether the answer you obtained makes any sense. Is it reasonable?

Yes, I recognized that my answer was way off. Which is why I was confused, because I couldn't find the mistake earlier in my work.

You must have made some sort of algebraic error somewhere.

And yes, I must have made some sort of calculator error because I just tried it again and got 15648 m, which is much more reasonable (and also the correct answer). Thanks for the help.
 

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