Starbursts seen around small bright lights at night have been attributed to optical scatter, diffraction, or aberrations. We manipulated pupil aperture and aberrations to investigate the entopic appearance of perceived starbursts. The impact of circular, annular, and wedge-shaped pupil apertures, and spherical aberration sign and magnitude were used to identify pupil sub-apertures responsible for each radial perceived starburst line. Local intensity distributions within the starbursts mapped onto unique sub-regions of the pupil of both phakic and pseudophakic eyes, consistent with the hypothesis that ocular aberrations are the cause of starbursts. In paraxially focused eyes, the size of starbursts is predicted by the amount of spherical aberration, and starburst orientation is either the same or 180 deg rotated from the pupil region that creates each starburst line. No starbursts are seen when the pupil diameter is smaller than 3 mm. Replacing the eye’s natural lens with a radially symmetric and optically homogeneous intraocular lens reduced the observed number of starbursts by 50%. Geometrical optics modeling including the measured aberrations of an individual eye can reveal point spread function structure that captures some of the key elements of the entopic perceptions.
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