Heiligenschein by Moonlight

April 20, 2005


Provided by: Jens Hackman
Summary authors & editors: Jens Hackman; Jim Foster

The above photo showing a reflection phenomenon known as the heiligenschein was captured on the night of March 25, 2005, from near Bad Mergentheim, close to the border to Bavaria in southern Germany. The Moon was nearly full on this early spring evening and thus provided sufficient illumination to reveal the heiligenschein effect.

If you look at your shadow on grass covered with dew, you can often see the heiligenschein, which is a German word meaning holy light. It's typically seen as a faint glow around the shadow of your head, but on occasion it can be rather conspicuous, as shown on the photo above. Moonlight or sunlight that passes through a dewdrop and then strikes a blade of grass is reflected toward the drop, which acts like a lens and returns the light towards the Moon or Sun, which must be behind you. You only see your halo because you just see light that's reflected directly backward toward you.

Photo Details: Canon EOS Rebel camera, t=30 sec, at 800 ISO.

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