Crepuscular Rays Above Leawood, Kansas

December 17, 2008


Photographer: Doug Zubenel
Summary Author: Doug Zubenel,  Jim Foster 

This photo shows the beautiful pinkish-red of filtered sunlight scattered in the atmosphere and broken up into gorgeous crepuscular rays. It was photographed from Leawood, Kansas, on the evening of August 27, 2008. The darker, deep blue, rays result from clouds well below the horizon blocking the Sun, whereas, the magenta beams are clear lanes where sunlight was unobstructed.

The Kasatochi volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Island chain erupted on August 7, 2008, blasting ash and sulphur dioxide aerosols high into the atmosphere. Within weeks, stratospheric winds moved this material across the Northern Hemisphere. This ash and aerosol layer acted as a reddening filter for sunlight as it passed through the lower atmosphere. In essence, these airborne particles enhanced the reddening effect caused by the longer path length of sunlight when the Sun is positioned near (or below) the horizon. See also the Earth Science Picture of the Day for November 17, 2008.