Abstract

The canonical point singularity of elliptically polarized light is an isolated point of circular polarization, a C point. As one recedes from such a point the surrounding polarization figures evolve into ellipses characterized by a major axis of length a, a minor axis of length b, and an azimuthal orientational angle α: at the C point itself, α is singular (undefined) and a and b are degenerate. The profound effects of the singularity in α on the orientation of the ellipses surrounding the C point have been extensively studied both theoretically and experimentally for over two decades. The equally profound effects of the degeneracy of a and b on the evolving shapes of the surrounding ellipses have only been described theoretically. As one recedes from a C point, a and b generate a surface that locally takes the form of a double cone (i.e., a diabolo). Contour lines of constant a and b are the classic conic sections, ellipses or hyperbolas depending on the shape of the diabolo and its orientation relative to the direction of propagation. We present measured contour maps, surfaces, cones, and diabolos of a and b for a random ellipse field (speckle pattern).

© 2006 Optical Society of America

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