Abstract

Oblate drops of water illuminated perpendicular to their symmetry axis generate a hyperbolic-umbilic diffraction catastrophe near the primary rainbow [ P. L. Marston and E. H. Trinh, Nature London 312, 529– 531 ( 1984)]. Observations were made of this diffraction catastrophe generated by white-light illumination of acoustically levitated drops of water in air. The observations suggest what generalized rainbows would look like if they were produced in nature when sunlight illuminates large raindrops. Unlike the usual rainbow arc, the transverse cusp of the unfolded catastrophe is not distinctly colored. The hyperbolic-umbilic focal section is distinctly colored as is another diffraction catastrophe generated in the rainbow region when the drop is highly oblate.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

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