A theory of light propagation along adiabatic photonic nanowire tapers (nanotapers) having diameters significantly less than the radiation wavelength is developed. The fundamental mode of a nanotaper primarily consists of an evanescent field, which propagates in the ambient medium and is very sensitive to the nanotaper shape. General analytical expressions for the evanescent field and the radiation loss of adiabatic nanotapers are obtained and applied to the investigation of the optics of tunneling from a nanotaper of a characteristic shape. The radiation loss of this nanotaper occurs locally near a focal circumference of the evanescent field, representing an intersection of a complex caustic surface with real space, where the fundamental mode splits into the radiating and guiding components. The interference of these components gives rise to a sequence of circumferences with zero electromagnetic field.
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