Distorted Sun

March 05, 2003


Provided by: Geoff Sims
Summary authors & editors: Geoff Sims; Jim Foster

The above photo was taken just before sunset on November 30th from the town of Hay, in New South Wales, Australia. Hay is famous for its "flatness." In every direction you look, you can see a level and nearly unobscured horizon. I had stopped just off the main highway to set up my cameras and noticed that there happened to be a distant stand of gum trees in the direction of the setting Sun. When magnified by the lens, these trees appeared to look "normal size," but the Sun looked un-naturally large. The distortion is a consequence of atmospheric refraction by the curved atmosphere, which acts as a lens and "pushes up" objects that are near the horizon. The closer to the horizon, the greater the effect, and so the lower portion of the Sun is pushed upwards more than the upper portion, causing the disk to appear oval in shape. In addition, the huge size of the Sun can be attributed to the "Moon Illusion," where celestial objects near the horizon look much bigger to our eyes than those same objects when near the zenith (directly overhead).

Camera: Pentax Z-70 with 1000mm effective focal length (500mm lens & 2x teleconverter)
Film: Fuji Reala 100
Exposure: 1/3s at f/16

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