Abstract

We introduce the basic elements of a spatio-angular theory of fluorescence microscopy, providing a unified framework for analyzing systems that image single fluorescent dipoles and ensembles of overlapping dipoles that label biological molecules. We model an aplanatic microscope imaging an ensemble of fluorescent dipoles as a linear Hilbert-space operator, and we show that the operator takes a particularly convenient form when expressed in a basis of complex exponentials and spherical harmonics—a form we call the dipole spatio-angular transfer function. We discuss the implications of our analysis for all quantitative fluorescence microscopy studies and lay out a path toward a complete theory.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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