Photographing Diffraction Rings—Optical Phenomenon


THE peculiar character of the photographs of an opening to the sky in the dark Cyclopean gallery at Tiryns, to which Mr. W. J. Stillman calls attention (NATURE, vol. xxiv. p. 260), finds an obvious explanation in the well-known optical phenomenon of diffraction rings, produced when a beam of light is transmitted through a small circular aperture, and viewed by means of a lens. Had your “Cecropian” correspondent examined the image of the illuminated opening by the assistance of a lens, the phenomenon of concentric coloured rings would, doubtless, have been recognisable to the eye. Hence the only point of interest in the phenomenon observed by Mr. Stillman is the significant fact that in securing the fleeting images of the rings on the gelatine plate—the actinic rays being alone effective—alternate dark and bright concentric rings are produced, as in the case of homogeneous or monochromatic light, instead of the coloured, rings seen by interposing a lens between the aperture and the eye. In other terms, the impressions on the gelatine plate being due to the action of the monochromatic actinic rays, the theory of diffraction shows that the concentric rings should be alternately dark and bright. This is an important circumstance in the applications of photography to such investigations.

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

LE CONTE, J. Photographing Diffraction Rings—Optical Phenomenon. Nature 24, 485 (1881).

Download citation


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.