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Polarization singularities in the clear sky

By M.V. Berry, M.R. Dennis and R.L. Jr Lee


Ideas from singularity theory provide a simple account of the pattern of polarization directions in daylight. The singularities (two near the Sun and two near the anti-Sun) are points in the sky where the polarization line pattern has index +1/2 and the intensity of polarization is zero. The singularities are caused by multiple scattering that splits into two each of the unstable index +1 singularities at the Sun and anti-Sun, which occur in the single-dipole scattering (Rayleigh) theory. The polarization lines are contours of an elliptic integral. For the intensity of polarization (unnormalized degree), it is necessary to incorporate the strong depolarizing effect of multiple scattering near the horizon. Singularity theory is compared with new digital images of sky polarization, and gives an excellent description of the pattern of polarization directions. For the intensity of polarization, the theory can reproduce not only the zeros but also subtle variations in the polarization maxima

Topics: QB, QA, QC
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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