Aplanatic telescopes based on Schwarzschild optical configuration: from grazing incidence Wolter-like x-ray optics to Cherenkov two-mirror normal incidence telescopes
At the beginning of XX century Karl Schwarzschild defined a method to design large-field aplanatic telescopes based on the use of two aspheric mirrors. The approach was then refined by Couder (1926) who, in order to correct for the astigmatic aberration, introduced a curvature of the focal plane. By the way, the realization of normal-incidence telescopes implementing the Schwarzschild aplanatic configuration has been historically limited by the lack of technological solutions to manufacture and test aspheric mirrors. On the other hand, the Schwarzschild solution was recovered for the realization of coma-free X-ray grazing incidence optics. Wolter-like grazing incidence systems are indeed free of spherical aberration, but still suffer from coma and higher order aberrations degrading the imaging capability for off-axis sources. The application of the Schwarzschild's solution to X-ray optics allowed Wolter to define an optical system that exactly obeys the Abbe sine condition, eliminating coma completely. Therefore these systems are named Wolter-Schwarzschild telescopes and have been used to implement wide-field X-ray telescopes like the ROSAT WFC and the SOHO X-ray telescope. Starting from this approach, a new class of X-ray optical system was proposed by Burrows, Burg and Giacconi assuming polynomials numerically optimized to get a flat field of view response and applied by Conconi to the wide field x-ray telescope (WFXT) design. The Schwarzschild-Couder solution has been recently re-discovered for the application to normal-incidence Cherenkov telescopes, thanks to the suggestion by Vassiliev and collaborators. The Italian Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) realized the first Cherenkov telescope based on the polynomial variation of the Schwarzschild configuration (the so-called ASTRI telescope). Its optical qualification was successfully completed in 2016, demonstrating the suitability of the Schwarzschild-like configuration for the Cherenkov astronomy requirements. Moreover, other Cherenkov telescopes based on Schwarzschild-Couder solutions are currently being completed at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona, USA and at the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon. In this paper we will review the Karl Schwarzschild solution and its application to grazing incidence and Cherenkov telescopes, discussing on future applications in the field of high-energy astronomy.