The **point spread function** (**PSF**) describes the response of an imaging system to a point source or point object. A more general term for the PSF is a system's impulse response, the PSF being the impulse response of a *focused* optical system. The PSF in many contexts can be thought of as the extended blob in an image that represents an unresolved object. In functional terms it is the spatial domain version of the modulation transfer function. It is a useful concept in Fourier optics, astronomical imaging, electron microscopy and other imaging techniques such as 3D microscopy (like in Confocal laser scanning microscopy) and fluorescence microscopy. The degree of spreading (blurring) of the point object is a measure for the quality of an imaging system. In incoherent imaging systems such as fluorescent microscopes, telescopes or optical microscopes, the image formation process is linear in power and described by linear system theory. This means that when two objects A and B are imaged simultaneously, the result is equal to the sum of the independently imaged objects. In other words: the imaging of A is unaffected by the imaging of B and *vice versa*, owing to the non-interacting property of photons. The image of a complex object can then be seen as a convolution of the true object and the PSF. However, when the detected light is coherent, image formation is linear in the complex field. Recording the intensity image then can lead to cancellations or other non-linear effects.

Read more about Point Spread Function: Introduction, Theory, History and Methods, PSF in Microscopy, The PSF in Astronomy, Point Spread Functions in Ophthalmology

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