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Barlow Lens design

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very short focal length eyepieces.

Barlow lenses used to be sold with a specified focal length. The lens was fitted into a

cell, within a tube that could be slid into the drawtube. The increase in the focal length

could be varied by altering the separation between the Barlow lens and eyepiece.

Now, because telescope focusers tend not to have drawtubes, they are sold with a

specified, and usually fixed, amplification. Spacer tubes may be supplied to change the

amplification.

The Barlow lens is negative, and needs to be achromatized, to maintain the spherical

and chromatic correction of the telescope objective.

The change in the focal length is given by the universal lens formula:

!

1

f

=

1

u

"

1

v

where f is the lens focal length

v is the object distance

u is the image distance

Defining Barlow lens parameters as the negative focal length B, distance inside the

prime focus D, and separation between Barlow lens and effective focus S,

!

1

B

=

1

S

"

1

D

and when the negative focal length B is known, can be rearranged in terms of D:

!

D=

SB

S + B

Image amplification is given by

!

A =

S

D

from which

!

S = B A"1

( )

The increase in telescope tube length is

!

S " D.

The Barlow lens cannot be placed inside the prime focus by more than its focal length. If

placed at its focal length inside prime focus the effective focus becomes infinite.

Amplifications between x1.5 and x3 are the typical working range.

A Barlow lens, if used to provide variable amplification, will introduce field curvature,

which becomes noticeable when the amplication exceeds x4. Fixed amplication Barlow

lenses are optimised to maintain the objectives correction, without making field curvature

worse. Longer focal length Barlow lenses introduce less field curvature for a given

amplification factor.

As a typical example calculation, take a Barlow lens, focal length -4-inches, placed 2-

inches inside prime focus and 4-inches in front of the eyepiece:

!

A =

S

D

=

4

2

= x2

If you do not know what the focal length of your Barlow lens is, but do know its

amplification factor, then it can be calculated by measuring the separation between it and

the eyepiece (Barlow to eyepiece field stop distance). For example, a x2 Barlow,

eyepiece separation 3-inches:

!

S = B A"1

( )

3 = B 2 "1) ( )

B = "3

if the separation is increased to 6-inches:

!

6 = 3 A"1) ( )

A"1

( )

=

6

3

= 2

A = 2 +1= x3

If you know the amplification factor, do not know the Barlow lens focal length, and cannot

measure the eyepiece separation accurately, but can measure how far inside the prime

focus it is located; for example, a x2 Barlow, placed 2-inches within the prime focus:

!

A =

S

D

2 =

S

2

S = 4

If you know the Barlow lens focal length and wish to know how far it needs to be placed

inside prime focus knowing its separation from the eyepiece; for example a Barlow lens

focal length -2-inches and eyepiece separation 4-inches:

!

D=

SB

S + B

=

4x2

4 + 2

=

8

6

=1

1

3

and the amplification:

!

A =

S

D

=

4

1

1

3

= x3

These are the four possible conditions that can arise when using a Barlow lens.

Nowadays, the second condition is the most likely scenario.

The amplifying effect of the Barlow lens increases the prime focal length, so for example

in the second condition, where the Barlow amplication was x2, it will double the

telescopes effective focal length, and for any particular eyepiece likewise double its

magnification. The Barlow lens would be located only

!

1

1

2

-inches inside the prime focus,

so the increase in tube length would be

!

3"1

1

2

=1

1

2

-inches. Which means that if you were

using a 4-inch refractor with a focal length of 40-inches, with this particualr Barlow lens you

could increase its effective focal length to 80-inches, but the tube length would only

increase to

!

41

1

2

-inches. An eyepiece focal length

!

1

2

-inch, magnification x80, would when

placed 3-inches behind the Barlow, yield x160.

The design and optical quality of a Barlow lens matters. You tend to get what you pay

for. The Zeiss Abbe Barlow, x2 / x3, the Dakin x1.4 by Vernonscope, and the x2

TeleVue Big Barlow are amongst my favourites. Siebert also make a x2.5 Big Barlow

which works well with low power eyepieces.

A Barlow lens takes the divergent ray bundles from the objective and amplifies them,

making them diverge more. The further off the optical axis the greater the field angle

becomes, introducing field curvature and vignetting. A telecentric Barlow amplifier returns

the outer principal rays parallel to the optical axis.

principle of a telecentric amplifier

To understand what is happening in a telecentric Barlow imagine a simple refractor with

its principal rays diverging from the centre of the objective. At the focal plane the

principal ray angle increases with the field position. To return the outer principal rays to

parallel a positive lens is needed. The trick is to select a negative and positive pair that

correct the divergent principal rays without nullifying the amplification of the negative lens.

The telecentric condition depends on how far the apparent aperture is away

from the rear lens set that makes it telecentric. It could be looked at in this way:

the rear lens arrangement is rather like a telescope OG, working

backwards, focussing onto the real objective lens (in a refractor).

In theory a telecentric has to be designed for a specific aperture and focal ratio because

the principal rays have to be made parallel to the optical axis. In practice there is a

margin that enables a commercial telecentric amplifier to be used across a limited range

of apertures and focal ratios with a slight adjustment of placement and eyepiece

separation. The designer would use a ray tracing programme such as Zeemax and ask

for the principal rays to have zero angle. The field size etc are all worked out as part of

the optimization using numerical methods.

There is a basic thin lens algebraic method, which is approximate. The front negative

element (in this case a doublet) follows the same rules as a Barlow, except the distance

inside the focal plane is a fixed value. Telecentricity demands that . The positive element

(in this case also a doublet) has unit power, but corrects the divergence of the principal

rays.

Example (Ref. Paraxial Telecentric Barlow Lens diagram):

5.5-inch f/7 OG to -4-inch lens (1.04-inches dia.) = 35.5-inches, a 4-inch space, then a

+4-inch lens (1.504-inches dia.) to image plane (1.25-inches dia.) = 8-inches

within the limitations of thin lens formulae, this design provides a telecentric system in

image space with an amplification of x4. The overall length is 12-inches, placed 3.5-

inches within prime focus, extending the telescope length 8.5-inches.

!

S

1

= B

1

A

1

"1 ( )

S

1

= 4 A

1

"1 ( )

D

1

=

S

1

B

1

S

1

+ B

1

3 =

4S

1

4 + S

1

4S

1

= 3 4 + S

1

( )

S

1

=12

A

1

= x4

!

S

2

= 8

D

2

= 8

T

1

= 4

A

2

= x1

!

A

1

A

2

= x4

Here is an example producing telecentricity and the same amplification within a shorter

space:

Telecentrics offer certain advantages over standard Barlows for fast objectives where

field curvature is already a problem. A three element apochromatic object glass will

posses quite a steep radius of field curvature, typically approximately 37.5% of the

focal length. A Barlow will only make this worse, severely limiting the useable field. A

telecentric can act as a field flattener as well as a focal length amplifier.

A telecentric amplifier is also essential when using a very narrow passband H# etalon in

order to ensure uniformity of passband across the field of view. The divergent ray

bundles formed by a Barlow would shift the passband bluewards relative to the central

image area. A telecentric ensures the ray bundles strike the etalon at the same angle

regardless of field position.

TeleVue and Siebert Optics offer a range of telecentric amplifiers intended for visual

observation. Thomas Baader offer two telecentrics intended for use with H# filters.

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