Michelson A. A. Light waves and their uses (1903)

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Light Waves and Their Uses

FIG. 38

the solid steel shafting through an angle which is very readilv observed by the movement of the fringes across the field.

The form of interferometer which has proved most generally useful is that shown in Fig. 38. The light starts t ^ from source S and separates at

the rear of the plate A, part of it being reflected to the plane mirror C, returning exactly, on its path through A, to O, where it may be examined by a telescope or received upon a screen. The other part of the ray goes through the glass plate A, passes through B, and is reflected by the plane mirror D, returns on its path to the starting-point A, where it is reflected so as nearly to coincide with the first ray. The plane-parallel glass B is introduced to compensate for the extra thickness of glass which the first portion of the ray has traversed in passing twice through the plate A. Without it the two paths would not be optically identical, because the first would contain more glass than the second.

Some light is reflected from the front surface of the plate A, but its effect may be rendered insignificant by covering the rear surface of A with a coating of silver of such thickness that about equal portions of the incident light are reflected and transmitted.

The plane-parallel plates A and B are worked originally in a single piece, which is afterward cut in two. The two pieces are placed parallel to each other, thus insuring exact equality in the two optical paths AC and AD.

The foregoing principles are applied in concrete form in the instrument shown in Figs. 39, 40. A rigid casting serves

Microscope, Telescope, Interferometer 41

as the bed of the instrument. One end of this bed has fastened to it a heavy metal plate i7, which carries the three glass plates A, Z), and B, The plate A is held in a metal frame which is rigidly fastened to the plate H. The frame which holds B can be turned slightly about a vertical axis to allow of adjusting B so that it is parallel to A.

The mirror D is held by springs against three adjusting screws which are set in a vertical plate attached to the end of the plate H. Both C and D are silvered on their front faces. The frame which holds the mirror C is firmly mounted on a metal slide which can be moved by the screw S along the ways EF. One very essential feature of the apparatus is that these ways shall be so true that the mirror C shall remain parallel to itself as it is moved along. The accuracy of the ways must be so great that the greatest angle through which the mirror C turns in passing along them is less than one second of an arc.

This accuracy cannot be attained by the instrument maker, but the final grinding must be done by the investigator himself.

To adjust the instrument so that fringes are formed, a small object like a pin is held between the source and the plate A. Two images of this pin will be seen by an observer at O—one formed by the light which is reflected from C, and the other by that reflected from Z). The fringes in