Airplane Windows and The Glory

August 13, 2003


Provided by: Mary Zank
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Mary Zank

The above photo was taken out an airplane window, flying over the northeastern U.S., and shows a delicate glory. It's sometimes rewarding to have a window seat. While the glory is not uncommon, you have to know where to look for it -- in clouds near the antisolar point, on the side of the plane away from the Sun. The glory is a diffraction phenomenon and is frequently seen against cumulostratus cloud decks. It's similar to a corona, however, it can only be observed looking opposite the Sun, unlike a corona, which is found near the Sun. In addition, the light of the glory is polarized -- coronae light is not. See the Earth Science Picture of the Day for February 18, 2002 and January 20, 2003.

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