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Reflection of Light - Definition, Types, Properties and Inter Reflection

Reflection of light is defined as the bouncing back of the light ray after striking a smooth surface or interface separating two different mediums with the same angle, with the same properties, and in the same medium.

The ray of light which first strikes a surface is called an incident ray, and the outcome of the reflection that takes place results in giving a reflected ray.

The variables involved:

  • Normal- The perpendicular line drawn on the interface of the two different mediums is called the normal.
  • Principle axis- The line which separates the two mediums or the surface on which reflection takes place is called the principal axis.
  • The angle of incidence- The angle made between the approaching incident ray and the normal.
  • The angle of reflection- The angle made after the reflection between the reflected ray and the normal.
  • Point of incidence- The point at which the incident ray falls on the reflecting medium is called the point of incidence.
  • Plane of incidence- The plane which consists of the incident ray and the normal is called the plane of incidence
  • Plane of reflection- The plane consisting of the reflected ray and its normal is defined as the plane of reflection.

There are mainly two laws of reflection that you need to keep in mind. They are:

  • The reflected ray, the incident ray, and the normal lie on the same plane, which is at the point of incidence.
  • The angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence.

Two Types of Reflection

Reflection of light is the ray of light you get back in return after the incident ray has struck a surface. This phenomenon can take place in two types of reflection such as:

  • Regular Reflections-

Properties of water:

This type of reflection occurs when the incident light ray falls on a polished, smooth, and uniform surface such as a plane mirror. The incident beam of light rays is parallel to one another, and even the reflected light rays are parallel and fixed in one direction.

The beam of reflected light rays is only visible from a particular direction or angle. Thus, the use of this reflection is simply for seeing our image in a plane and a uniform mirror.

  • Irregular Reflections-

This type of reflection occurs when the incident light ray falls on a rough or non-uniform surface, such as a wall in a room. The incident beams of light rays are parallel to one another. However, these rays fall on different points in the rough surface after striking the surface, leading to a different and independent reflection of rays for every point. The irregular reflection results in every reflected ray travelling in different directions.

Two Types of Images

The product of these reflections takes place in the formation of an image. An image is what we see after the phenomenon of reflection of light. There are mainly two types of images that the reflection of the light waves can produce.

  • Real image- A real image is formed when the rays of light intersect in a real sense. Such an image can be obtained on a screen, and the image obtained is inverted in nature. A real image is formed when the reflection of light rays is done on a concave mirror.
  • Virtual image- A virtual image is formed when light rays appear to diverge from the image. They do not authentically intersect. Such an image cannot be obtained on a screen, and the produced image is erect in nature. A virtual image is formed when the reflection of light rays is done on a plane mirror or a convex mirror.

Total Internal Reflection

Another interesting branch of reflection of light that actually originated from the concept of refraction of light is called Total Internal Reflection. This phenomenon shows a complete reflection of light rays when passed from one medium to another. It depends majorly on an angle called the critical angle.

The critical angle can be defined as the angle of incidence at which the refracted ray is at 90 degrees with the normal.

There are certain limitations and requirements of this phenomenon. Those are:

  • The angle of incidence needs to be more than the critical angle of that particular medium.
  • This condition only takes place when the rays are travelling from a denser medium to a rarer medium.

The reflecting light rays enable us to see everything we can in the environment, so having adequate knowledge about this topic is very important.

NCERT Class 10 Science Chapter 10, light reflection and refraction deals with the principles of light and its phenomena. It also discusses some common phenomena like rainbows, images, the twinkling of stars, and how they're formed.

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