Researchers create 'laser dogs' with soap bubbles

Alberto Tufaile

Researchers create 'laser dogs' with soap bubbles

On a frosty winter morning, you might see “sun dogs,” or bright spots on either side of the sun, sometimes connected by an ethereal solar halo. But you've probably never seen a laser dog, a new phenomenon produced by shining lasers on soapsuds. Sun dogs—the origin of the term is unclear—are normally caused by the bending of sunlight in tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere, but when scientists shone a laser on a junction between three soap films, they saw something strikingly similar: Bright spots appeared, which they named laser dogs because of their relationship with sun dogs. They were also able to observe optical phenomena that are even more obscure, they report in a study to be published next month in Physics Letters A. The light ring shown above is analogous to a parhelic circle, which threads through the sun, running parallel to the horizon. And the straight lines can be compared to sun pillars, light beams that sometimes stretch upward from the sun. Although the laser features are produced somewhat differently from the atmospheric spectacles, these simple soap bubbles are one way to study them without turning our eyes to the heavens.

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