A reflector is a type of antenna that receives and focuses various types of signals. Reflectors have numerous applications, from satellite dishes and telescopes, to long-distance microphones and car headlights. One common feature of these examples is their parabolic shape, giving them the name parabolic reflectors.

It turns out that paraboloids are the perfect shape for focusing signals from distant sources. When pointed directly at the the incoming signal, a parabolic reflector (GIF 1) collects the signal to a single focal point, where a receiver, called a feed horn, is placed to collect the focused transmission.

In many applications, parabolic reflectors are too costly to produce, so spherical reflectors (GIF 2) are used instead. The disadvantage of spherical reflectors is that they have multiple focal points, and therefore produce blurry results.

Mathematica code posted here.

This code is incredibly messy and I guarantee there’s a better way to calculate this. Please contact me if you have suggestions!