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Let's suppose you are in a dark room and see something resembling a firefly. The light it emits is so dim that nothing else is visible. You're told that it's either a real source of light or an image created by means of an optical setup.

Is there any way to determine whether it's a real source of light, a real image, or a virtual image? You are only allowed to look at it and aren't allowed to use any equipment or change your position.

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In principle, there is no difference between photons traveling from an object through the air and photons traveling through an optical setup. Photons are photons.

That being said, it is very difficult to make a perfect optical setup. There will likely be some artifacts that give away the optical contraption. However, the artifacts vary from device to device. We can't make generalized statements about how all optical devices fail.

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