coma, comatic aberration

Coma, or comatic aberration, is a phenomenon visible in the periphery of an image produced by a lens which has been corrected for spherical aberration, and causes light rays entering the edge of the lens at an angle to converge in the form of a comet instead of the desired point, hence the name. The comet shape is oriented radially with the tail pointing either toward or away from the center of the image. The resulting blur near the edges of the image is called comatic flare. Coma, which can occur even in lenses which correctly reproduce a point as a point on the optical axis, is caused by a difference in refraction between light rays from an off-axis point passing through the edge of the lens and the principal light ray from the same point passing through the lens center. Coma increases as the angle of the principal ray increases, and causes a decrease in contrast near the edges of the image. A certain degree of improvement is possible by stopping down the lens. Coma can also cause blurred areas of an image to flare, resulting in an unpleasing effect. The elimination of both spherical aberration and coma for a subject at a certain shooting distance is called aplanatism, and a lens corrected as such is called an aplanat.