Angular resolution (by a single telescope)


Point-like sources separated by an angle smaller than the angular resolution cannot be resolved. A single optical telescope may have an angular resolution less than one arcsecond, but astronomical seeing and other atmospheric effects make attaining this very hard.

The angular resolution R of a telescope can usually be approximated by this formula.

For example, in the case of yellow light with a wavelength of 580 nm, for a resolution of 0.1 arc second, we need D = 1.2 m.

This formula, for light with a wavelength of about 562 nm, is also called the Dawes’ limit.

Related formulas


RAngular resolution R of a telescope [rad] (dimensionless)
λWavelength of the observed radiation (m)
DDiameter of the telescope's objective. (m)