Glory Above Maui

May 14, 2007


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

This enhanced image shows a striking glory as seen from the window of a commercial jet window above the island of Maui (Hawaii) on January 17, 2007. Glories form by diffraction, reflection and refraction of sunlight through water droplets. Their formation involves surface waves as well as internal reflections. The number of rings and their angular extent is a function of the size distribution of the water droplets that compose clouds. With larger droplets the rings are more tightly packed. The clearer the colors appear in the fringes, the tighter the size distribution of the droplets (closer to one single size). Glories are polarized radially in the outer color fringes but tangentially in the center. To see a glory from aloft you simply need to be at an altitude where cumulus and stratus clouds occur and seated on the side of the aircraft opposite of the Sun (antisolar point).

Photo details: ISO 200, f/45.6, 1/2000 exposure in RAW mode with a Pentax iDST 6MP SLR. The raw image didn't have great color or contrast. However, a bit of Photoshop tweaking helped. The cloud producing the glory was approximately 2 km above the surface -- the jet plane was perhaps 1/2 km higher. Note that the glory subtended roughly 10 degrees.

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