Direct image functor
In mathematics, in the field of sheaf theory and especially in algebraic geometry, the direct image functor generalizes the notion of a section of a sheaf to the relative case.
Definition
Image functors for sheaves 

direct image f_{∗} 
inverse image f^{∗} 
direct image with compact support f_{!} 
exceptional inverse image Rf^{!} 

Let f: X → Y be a continuous mapping of topological spaces, and Sh(–) the category of sheaves of abelian groups on a topological space. The direct image functor
sends a sheaf F on X to its direct image presheaf
which turns out to be a sheaf on Y.
This assignment is functorial, i.e. a morphism of sheaves φ: F → G on X gives rise to a morphism of sheaves f_{∗}(φ): f_{∗}(F) → f_{∗}(G) on Y.
Example
If Y is a point, then the direct image equals the global sections functor. Let f: X → Y be a continuous map of topological spaces or a morphism of schemes. Then the exceptional inverse image is a functor f^{!}: D(Y) → D(X).
Variants
A similar definition applies to sheaves on topoi, such as etale sheaves. Instead of the above preimage f^{−1}(U) the fiber product of U and X over Y is used.
Higher direct images
The direct image functor is left exact, but usually not right exact. Hence one can consider the right derived functors of the direct image. They are called higher direct images and denoted R^{q} f_{∗}.
One can show that there is a similar expression as above for higher direct images: for a sheaf F on X, R^{q} f_{∗}(F) is the sheaf associated to the presheaf
Properties
 The direct image functor is right adjoint to the inverse image functor, which means that for any continuous and sheaves respectively on X, Y, there is a natural isomorphism:
 .
 If f is the inclusion of a closed subspace X ⊂ Y then f_{∗} is exact. Actually, in this case f_{∗} is an equivalence between sheaves on X and sheaves on Y supported on X. It follows from the fact that the stalk of is if and zero otherwise (here the closedness of X in Y is used).
See also
References
 Iversen, Birger (1986), Cohomology of sheaves, Universitext, Berlin, New York: SpringerVerlag, ISBN 9783540163893, MR 842190, esp. section II.4
This article incorporates material from Direct image (functor) on PlanetMath, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike License.