Mauna Kea Light Scattering

April 13, 2007

12-23-bigisle-stack copy

Provided by: David Harrington, University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy
Summary authors & editors: David Harrington

This is a high-dynamic-range image of the Big Island observatories on top of the 13,796 ft (4,202 m) Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was taken from roughly 80 miles away (129 km), on top of the 10,023 ft (3,055 m) Haleakala volcano. The photo shows two shield volcanoes, a deep erosional valley and a rift zone (line of cones -- mid right). The Big Island contains most of the world's 14 climate zones -- the elevation change and wind patterns create tropical rain forest (bottom left), all the way to frozen deserts (Mauna Kea summit).

The atmosphere is hazy from the scattering of light off of small particles in the air (Rayleigh Scattering). This scattering is a strong function of wavelength, being much stronger in the blue than in the red portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The image was created by co-adding (stacking) 80 individual images to greatly increase the dynamic range of the picture. The three panels at the bottom show the haze decreasing from blue, through green, to red. Photo taken on December 23, 2006.

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