Mauna Kea Shadow

April 27, 2006

Mtn_shadow copy

Provided and copyright by: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary authors & editors: Rick Stankiewicz

While on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii this past February, my wife and I were fortunate enough to take in a tour of Mauna Kea. At 13,796 ft (4,205 m), it's not only the highest mountain in the Hawaiian Chain of islands, but is the tallest peak in the whole of the Pacific. As you can tell from my wife's attire in the above picture, the temperature was dropping (near 0 degrees C or 32 F) as the Sun started to set. When I was getting ready to snap this photo, I noticed the unique triangular shape behind her, and I realized that I was actually seeing the shadow of the mountain we were standing on. With the low angle of the Sun’s rays, Mauna Kea’s shadow was being projected against the distant atmosphere. Typically, for this effect to be seen there must be abundant aerosols overhead -- dust particles, for instance. The aerosols outside of the shadow scatters sunlight. Inside of the shadow, this scattered sunlight is absent. The pinkish belt or layer (Belt of Venus) that the shadow is reclining upon is the start of a shadow of another kind; one caused by the approach of nightfall. It was a sight to behold and one I won't soon forget. See also the Earth Science Picture of the Day for October 10, 2003.

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