Because of the distortions of geometrical optics, image curves and the outlines of the objects that generate them need not have the same topology. New image loops appear when the object curve touches the caustic of the family of (imaginary) rays emitted by the observing eye. Such disruption may be elliptic (loop born from an isolated point) or hyperbolic (loop pinched off from an already existing one). The number of images need not be odd (unlike the number of rays reaching the eye from each object point). Two examples are employed to illustrate caustic touching. The first is the Sun’s disk seen in rippled water (as the height of the eye increases, the boundary of all the images becomes a fractal curve with dimension 2). The second is sunset seen through the Earth’s atmosphere from near space (when there is an inversion layer) or from the Moon during a lunar eclipse (when there need not be one).
© 1987 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: May 21, 1986
Manuscript Accepted: October 8, 1986
Published: March 1, 1987
M. V. Berry, "Disruption of images: the caustic-touching theorem," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 4, 561-569 (1987)