Contrail Irisation

June 28, 2006


Provided and copyright by: Jurgen de Boer
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Jurgen de Boer

On the evening of May 2, 2006, while trying to photograph a colorful sunset, I noticed several commercial jets and their associated condensation trails (contrails), including the one shown above. I took several photos of this plane and was able to detect different colors along the edge of its contrail. Though iridescence can occur in ice crystals as well as water droplets, in this case it's possible that during the brief period in which the expelled particles were still in a liquid state, sunlight was deflected (process of diffraction) by the droplets in such a way to produce the pastel coloration.

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