Wing of an Angel
April 18, 2003
The above photo shows a bright shaft of sunlight beaming over a cumulus-type cloud. Also known as Sun Drawing Water, Rays of Buddha or Ropes of Maui, these shafts always point toward the Sun. If they occur during twilight, they're referred to as crepuscular rays. Note that fainter light shafts as well as darker lanes are also visible above the cloud. These dark streaks are simply shadows cast by protuberances of the cloud. The rays are actually parallel, and their apparent convergence is due to perspective -- like looking at railroad tracks in the distance. See also the Earth Science Picture of the Day for July 17, 2002 and March 18, 2002.
For after the rain with never a stain
The pavillion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air
Percy Shelley (The Cloud)