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Encyclopedia > Airy disk

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Olympus FluoView Resource Center: Resolution and Contrast in Confocal Microscopy (6114 words)
The Airy pattern intensity distribution is the result of Fraunhofer diffraction of light passing through a circular aperture, and in a perfect optical system exhibits a central intensity maximum and higher order maxima separated by regions of zero intensity.
Because the maximum intensity of the Airy disk is normalized to one, the highest achievable contrast is also one, and occurs only when the spacing between the two objects is relatively large, with sufficient separation to allow the first zero crossing to occur in their combined intensity distribution.
The Airy pattern is generally assumed to be a smooth continuous function described by an infinite number of samples (or data points), as shown in the typical analog representation of the intensity variation across the pattern.
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